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Jan. 23, 1859.... There is a cold N. W. wind, and I notice that the snow fleas, which were so abundant over this water yesterday, have hopped to some lee, i. e., are collected like powder under the S. E. side of posts or trees, sticks or ridges in the ice. You are surprised to see that they manage to get out of the wind. On the S. E. side of every such barrier along the shore there is a dark line or heap of them.
Jan. 24, 1841. I almost shrink from the arduousness of meeting men erectly day by day.
Be resolutely and faithfully what you are, be humbly what you aspire to be. Be sure you give men the best of your wares, though they be poor enough, and the gods will help you to lay up a better store for the future. Man's noblest gift to man is his sincerity, for it embraces his integrity also. Let him not dole out of himself anxiously to suit their weaker or stronger stomachs, but make a clear gift of himself, and empty his coffers at once. I would be in society as in the landscape; in the presence of nature there is no reserve nor effrontery.
Coleridge says of the "ideas spoken out every. where in the Old and New Testaments," that they "resemble the fixed stars which appear of the same size to the naked or the armed eye, the magnitude of which the telescope may rather seem to diminish than to increase."
It is more proper for a spiritual fact to have suggested an analogous natural one than for the natural fact to have preceded the spiritual in our minds.
By spells seriousness will be forced to cut capers, and drink a deep and refreshing draught of silliness, to turn this sedate day of Lucifer's and Apollo's into an all fools' day for Harlequin and Cornwallis. The sun does not grudge his rays to either, but they are alike patronized by the gods. Like overtasked school-boys, all my members and nerves and sinews petition thought for a recess, and my very thigh bones itch to slip away from under me, and run and join in the melee. I exult in stark inanity. We think the gods reveal themselves only to sedate and musing gentlemen, but not so; the buffoon in the midst of his antics catches unobserved glimpses which he treasures for the lonely hour. When I have been playing tom fool, I have been driven to exchange the old for a more liberal and catholic philosophy.
Jan. 24, 1852. If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short, at the longest. Improve each occasion when the soul is reached. Drain the cup of inspiration to its last dregs. Fear no intemperance in that, for the years will come when otherwise thou wilt regret opportunities unimproved. The spring will not last forever. These fertile and expanding seasons of thy life, when the rain reaches thy root, when thy vigor shoots, when thy flower is budding, shall be fewer and farther between. Again I say, remember thy creator in the days of thy youth. Use and commit to life what you cannot commit to memory. I hear the tones of my sister's piano below. It reminds me of strains which once I heard more frequently, when possessed with the inaudible rhythm I sought my chamber in the cold, and communed with my own thoughts. I feel as if I then received the gifts of the gods with too much indifference. Why did I not cultivate those fields they introduced me to? Does nothing withstand the inevitable march of time? Why did I not use my eyes when I stood on Pisgah? Now I hear those strains but seldom. My rhythmical mood does not endure. I cannot draw from it and return to it in my thought as to a well, all the evening or the morning. I cannot dip my pen in it. I cannot work the vein, it is so fine and volatile. Ah, sweet, ineffable reminiscences.
In thy journal let there never be a jest. To the earnest, there is nothing ludicrous....
When the telegraph harp trembles and wavers, I am most affected, as if it were approaching to articulation. It sports so with my heart strings. When the harp dies away a little, then I revive for it. It cannot be too faint. I almost envy the Irish whose shanty in the Cut is so near that they can hear this music daily, standing at their door. How strange to think that a sound so soothing, elevating, educating... might have been heard sweeping other strings when only the red man ranged these fields, might, perchance, in course of time have civilized him!
Jan. 24, 1856. A journal is a record of experiences and growth, not a preserve of things well done or said. I am occasionally reminded of a statement which I have made in conversation and immediately forgotten, which would read much better than what I put in my journal. It is a ripe, dry fruit of long past experience which falls from me easily without giving pain or pleasure. The charm of the journal must consist in a certain greenness, though freshness, and not in maturity. Here I cannot afford to be remembering what I said or did, my scurf cast off, but what I am and aspire to become.
Reading the hymns of the Rig Veda, translated by Wilson, which consist, in a great measure, of simple epithets addressed to the firmament, or the dawn, or the winds, which mean more or less as the reader is more or less alert and imaginative, and seeing how widely the various translators have differed, they regarding not the poetry, but the history and philology, dealing with very concise Sanskrit which must almost always be amplified to be understood, I am sometimes inclined to doubt if the translator has not made something out of nothing, whether a real idea or sentiment has been thus trans.: mitted to us from so primitive a period. I doubt if learned Germans might not thus edit pebbles from the sea-shore into hymns of the Rig Veda, and translators translate them accordingly, extracting the meaning which the sea has imparted to them in very primitive times. While the commentators and translators are disputing about the meaning of this word or that, I hear only the resounding of the ancient sea, and put into it the deepest meaning I am possessed of, for I do not the least care where I get my ideas, or what suggests them....
I have seen many a collection of stately elms which better deserved to be represented at the General Court than the manikins beneath, than the bar-room, the victualing cellar, and groceries they overshadowed. When I see their magnificent domes miles away in the horizon, over intervening valleys and forests, they suggest a village, a community there. But, after all, it is a secondary consideration whether there are human dwellings beneath them. These may have long since passed away. I find that into my idea of the village has entered more of the elm than of the human being. They are worth many a political borough. They constitute a borough. The poor human representative of his party sent out from beneath their shade will not suggest a tithe of the dignity, the true nobleness and comprehensiveness of view, the sturdiness and independence, and serene beneficence that they do. They look from township to township.... They battle with the tempests of a century. See what scars they bear, what limbs they lost before we were born. Yet they never adjourn, they steadily vote for their principles, and send their roots farther and wider from the same centre. They die at their posts, and they leave a tough butt for the choppers to exercise themselves about, and a stump which serves for their monument. They attend no caucus, they make no compromise, they use no policy. Their one principle is growth. They combine a true radicalism with a true conservatism. Their radicalism is not a cutting away of roots, but a multiplication and extension of them under all surrounding institutions. They take a firmer hold on the earth that they may rise higher into the heavens.... Their conservatism is a dead but solid heart-wood which is the pivot and firm column of support to all their growth, appropriating nothing to itself, but forever, by its support, assisting to extend the area of their radicalism. Half a century after they are dead at the core, they are preserved by radical reforms. They do not, like men, from radicals turn conservatives. Their conservative part dies out first, their radical and growing part survives. They acquire new states and territories while the old dominions decay and become the habitation of bears and owls and coons.
Jan. 24, 1858. P. M. Nut Meadow Brook. The river is broadly open as usual this winter. You can hardly say that we have had any sleighing at all... though five or six inches of snow lay on the ground five days after January 6th. But I do not quite like this warm weather and bare ground at this season. What is a winter without snow and ice in this latitude? The bare earth is unsightly. This winter is but unburied summer....
At Nut Meadow Brook the small sized water-bugs are as abundant and active as in summer. I see forty or fifty circling together in the smooth and sunny bays all along the brook. This is something new to me. What must they think of this winter? It is like a child waked up and set to playing at midnight. They seem more ready than usual to dive to the bottom when disturbed. At night, of course, they dive to the bottom and bury themselves, and if in the morning they perceive no curtain of ice drawn over their sky and the pleasant weather continues, they gladly rise again and resume their gyrations in some sunny bay amid the alders and the stubble. I think I never noticed them more numerous, but I never looked for them so particularly.... The sun falling thus warmly, for so long, on the open surface of the brook tempts them upward gradually.... What a funny way they have of going to bed. They do not take a light and retire up-stairs, they go below. Suddenly it is heels up and heads down, and they go down to their muddy bed, and let the unresting stream flow over them in their dreams. They go to bed in another element. What a deep slumber must be theirs, and what dreams down in the mud there! So the insect life is not withdrawn far off, but a warm sun would soon entice it forth. Sometimes they seem to have a little difficulty in making the plunge. May be they are too dry to slip under. I saw one floating on its back, and it struggled a little while before it righted itself. Suppose you were to plot the course of one for a day. What kind of a figure would it make? Probably this feat, too, will one day be performed by science, that maid of all work. I see one chasing a mote, and the wave the creature makes always causes the mote to float away from it. I would like to know what it is they communicate to one another, they who appear to value each other's society so much. How many water-bugs make a quorum? How many hundreds does their Fourier think it takes to make a complete bug? Where did they get their backs polished so? They will have occasion to remember this year, that winter when we were waked out of our annual sleep. What is their precise hour for retiring?
I see stretching from side to side of this smooth brook where it is three or four feet wide what seems to indicate an invisible waving line, like a cobweb, against which the water is heaped up a very little. This line is constantly swayed to and fro, as by the current or wind, bellying forward here and there. I try repeatedly to catch and break it with my hand and let the water run free, but still to my surprise I clutch nothing but fluid, and the imaginary line keeps its place. Is it the fluctuating edge of a lighter, perhaps more oily, fluid, overflowing a heavier? I see several such lines. It is somewhat like the slightest conceivable smooth fall over a dam. I must ask the water-bug that glides across it. Ah, if I had no more sins to answer for than a water-bug They are only the small water-bugs that I see. They are earlier in the spring and apparently hardier than the others....
Between winter and summer there is to my mind an immeasurable interval. When I pry into the old bank swallow holes to-day, see the marks of their bills, and even whole eggs. left at the bottom, these things affect me as the phenomena of a former geological period. Yet perchance the very swallow which laid those eggs will revisit this hole next spring. The upper side of her gallery is a low arch quite firm and durable.
Jan. 24, 1859.... I see an abundance of caterpillars of various kinds on the ice of the meadows, many of them large, dark, hairy, with longitudinal light stripes, somewhat like the common apple one. Many of them are frozen in still, some for two thirds their length, though all are alive. Yet it has been so cold since the rise that you can now cross the channel almost anywhere. I also see a great many of those little brown grasshoppers, and one perfectly green, some of them frozen in, but generally on the surface, showing no sign of life, yet when I brought them home to experiment on, I found them all alive and kicking in my pocket. There were also a small kind of reddish wasp quite lively on the ice, and other insects. There were naked or smooth worms or caterpillars. This shows what insects have their winter quarters in the meadow grass. This ice is a good field for the entomologist.... The larger spiders generally rest on 'the ice with all their bags spread, but on being touched they gather them up.
Monday, Jan. 25, 1841. On the morning when the wild geese go over I, too, feel the migratory instinct strong within me, and anticipate the breaking up of winter. If I yielded to this impulse, it would surely guide me to slimmer haunts. This indefinite restlessness and fluttering on the perch no doubt prophesy the final migration of souls out of nature to a serener summer, in long harrows and waving lines, in the spring weather, over what fair uplands and fertile elysian meadows, winging their way at evening, and seeking a resting place with loud cackling and uproar....
We should strengthen and beautify and industriously mould our bodies to be fit companions of the soul, assist them to grow up like trees, and be agreeable and wholesome objects in nature. I think if I had had the disposal of this soul of man, I should have bestowed it sooner on some antelope of the plains than upon this sickly and sluggish body.
Jan. 25, 1852.... The cold for some weeks has been intense,... a Canadian winter.... But last night and to-day the weather has moderated. It is glorious to be abroad this afternoon, the snow melts on the surface; the warmth of the sun reminds me of summer. The dog runs before us on the railroad causeway, and appears to enjoy it as much as ourselves.... The clay in the deep Cut is melting and streaming down, glistening in the sun. It is I that melts, while the harp sounds on high. The snow-drifts on the west side look like clouds. We turned down the brook at Heywood's meadow. It was worth while to see how the water even in the marsh, where the brook is almost stagnant, sparkled in this atmosphere, for, though warm, it is remarkably clear. Water, which in summer would look dark, and perhaps turbid, now sparkles like the lakes in November. The water is the more attractive, since all around is deep snow. The brook here is full of cat-tails, Typha latifolia, reed-mace. I found on pulling open, or breaking in my hand as one would break bread, the still perfect spikes of this fine reed, that the flowers were red or crimson at their base where united to the stem. When I rubbed off what was at first but a thimble full of these dry flowerets, they suddenly took in air and flashed up like powder, expanding like feathers or foam, filling and overflowing my hand to which they imparted a sensation of warmth quite remarkable.... I could not tire of repeating the experiment. I think a single one would more than fill a half peck measure, if they lay as light as at first in the air. It is something magical to one who tries it for the first time.... You do not know at first where it all comes from. It is the conjurer's trick in nature, equal to taking feathers enough to fill a bed out of a hat. When you had done, but yet scraped the almost bare stem, they still overflowed your hand as before.... As the flowerets are opening and liberating themselves, showing their red extremities, it has the effect of a changeable color.
Ah, then, the brook beyond, its rippling wa-waters and its sunny sands. They made me forget that it was winter. Where springs oozed out of the soft bank over the dead leaves and the green sphagnum, they had melted the snow, or the snow had melted as it fell perchance, and the rabbits had sprinkled the mud about on the snow. The sun reflected from the sandy, gravelly bottom, sometimes a bright sunny streak no bigger than your finger reflected from a ripple as from a prism, and the sunlight reflected from a hundred points of the surface of the rippling brook, enabled me to realize summer....
Having gone a quarter of a mile beyond the bridge where C. calls this his Spanish Brook, I looked back from the top of the hill into this deep dell, where the white pines stood thick, rising one above another, reflecting the sunlight, so soft and warm by contrast with the snow, as never in summer, for the idea of warmth prevailed over the cold which the snow suggested, though I saw through and between them to a distant snow-clad hill, and also to oaks red with their dry leaves, and maple limbs were mingled with the pines. I was on the verge of seeing something, but I did not. If I had been alone, and had had more leisure, I might have seen something to report.
Now we are on Fair Haven, still but a snow plain. Far down the river the shadows on Conantum are bluish.... The sun is half an hour high, perhaps. Standing near the outlet of the pond, I look up and down the river with delight, it is so warm, and the air is notwithstanding so clear. When I invert my head and look at the woods half a mile down the stream, they suddenly sink lower in the horizon, and are removed full two miles off. Yet the air is so clear that I seem to see every stem and twig with beautiful distinctness. The fine tops of the trees are so relieved against the sky, that I never cease to admire the minute subdivisions. It is the same when I look up the stream. A bare hickory under Lee's Cliff seen against the sky becomes an interesting, even beautiful object to behold. I think, where have I been staying all these days'? I will surely come here again.
Jan. 25, 1853.... I have noticed that leaves are green and violets bloom later where a bank has been burnt over in the fall, as if the fire warmed it. Saw to-day where a creeping juniper had been burnt, radical leaves of Johns-wort, thistle, clover, a dandelion, etc., as well as sorrel and veronica.
Jan. 25, 1856.... A closed pitch pine cone, gathered January 22d, opened last night in my chamber. If you would be convinced how differently armed the squirrel is naturally for dealing with pitch pine cones, just try to get one open with your teeth. He who extracts the seeds from a single closed cone, with the aid of a knife, will be constrained to confess that the squirrel earns his dinner. He has the key to this conical and spiny chest of many apartments. He sits on a post vibrating his tail, and twirls it as a plaything. So is a man commonly a locked-up chest to us, to open whom, unless we have the key of sympathy, will make our hearts bleed.
Jan. 25, 1858.... What a rich book might be made about buds, including, perhaps, sprouts. The impregnable, vivacious willow catkins, but half asleep along the twigs, under the armor of their black scales, the birch and oak sprouts, the rank and lusty dogwood sprouts, the sound, red buds of the blueberry, the small pointed red buds, close to the twig, of the panicled andromeda, the large yellowish buds of the swamp pink, etc. How healthy and vivacious must he be who would treat of these things.
You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake; you must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand heap....
The creditor is servant to his debtor, especially if the latter is about paying any his due. I am amused to see what airs men take upon themselves when they have money to pay me, no matter how long they have deferred it. They imagine that they are my benefactors or patrons, and send me word graciously that, if I will come to their houses, they will pay me, when it is their business to come to me.
Jan. 25, 1860.... When the river begins to break up, it becomes clouded like a mackerel sky, but in this case, the blue portions are where the current clearing away the ice beneath begins to show dark. The current of the water striking the ice breaks it up at last into portions of the same form with those which the wind gives to vapor.
Jan. 26, 1840. Constantly, as it were, through a remote skylight, I have glimpses of a serene friendship-land, and know the better why brooks murmur and violets grow.
Jan. 26, 1841. I have as much property as I can command and use. If by a fault in my character I do not derive my just revenues, there is virtually a mortgage on my inheritance. A man's wealth is never entered in the registrar's office. Wealth does not come in along the great thoroughfares, it does not float on the Erie or Pennsylvania canal, but is imported by a solitary track without bustle or competition from a brave industry to a quiet mind.
I had a dream last night which had reference to an act in my life, in which I had been most disinterested, and true to my highest instinct, but completely failed in realizing my hopes; and now, after so many months, in the stillness of sleep, complete justice was rendered me. It was a divine remuneration. In my waking hours, I could not have conceived of such retribution; the presumption of desert would have damned the whole. But now I was permitted to be not so much a subject as a partner to that retribution. It was the award of divine justice which will at length be, and is even now, accomplished.
Good writing as well as good acting will be obedience to conscience. There must not be a particle of will or whim mixed with it. If we can listen we shall hear. By reverently listening to the inner voice, we may reinstate ourselves on the pinnacle of humanity.
Jan. 27, 1841. In the compensation of the dream, there was no implied loss to any, but immeasurable advantage to all.
The punishment of sin is not positive as is the reward of virtue.
For a flower, I like the name pansy or pens& best of any.
Jan. 26, 1852. Whatever has been produced on the spur of the moment will bear to be reconsidered and reformed with phlegm. The arrow had best not be loosely shot. The most transient and passing remark must be reconsidered by the writer, made sure and warranted, as if the earth had rested on its axle to back it, and all the natural forces lay behind it. The writer must direct his sentence as carefully and leisurely as the marksman his rifle, who is sitting and with a rest, with patent sights and conical balls beside. He must not merely seem to speak the truth. He must really speak it. If you foresee that a part of your essay will topple down after the lapse of time, throw it down now yourself.
A tree seen against other trees is a mere dark mass, but against the sky it has parts, has symmetry and expansion.... The thousand fine points and tops of the trees delight me. They are the plumes and standards and bayonets of a host that march to victory over the earth. The trees are handsome toward the heavens, as well as up their boles. They are good for other things than boards and shingles.
Obey the spur of the moment. These ac. cumulated it is that make the impulse and the impetus of the life of genius. These are the apongioles and rootlets by which its trunk is fed. If you neglect the moments, if you cut off your fibrous roots, what but a languishing life is to be expected. Let the spurs of countless moments goad us incessantly into life. I feel the spur of the moment thrust deep into my side. The present is an inexorable rider. The moment always spurs either with a sharp or a blunt spur. Are my sides calloused? Let us trust the rider that he knows the way, that he knows when speed and effort are required. What other impulse do we wait for?
Let us preserve religiously, secure, protect the coincidence of our life with the life of nature. Else what are heat and cold, day and night, sun, moon, and stars to us? Was it not from sympathy with the present life of nature that we were born at this epoch rather than at another?... My life as essentially belongs to the present as that of a willow tree in the spring. Now, now, its catkins expand, its yellow bark shines, its sap flows, now or never must you make whistles of it. Get the day to back you. Let it back you, and the night.
The truest account of heaven is the fairest, and I will accept none which disappoints expectation. It is more glorious to expect a better, than to enjoy a worse.
When the thermometer is down to 20°, the streams of thought tinkle underneath like the rivers under the ice. Thought, like the ocean, is nearly of one temperature....
In winter we will think brave, hardy, and most native thoughts. Then the tender summer birds are flown.
In few countries do they enjoy so fine a contrast of summer and winter. We really have four seasons, each incredible to the other. Winter cannot be mistaken for summer here. Though I see the boat turned up on the shore, and half buried under snow, as I walk over the invisible river, summer is far away with its rustling reeds. It only suggests the want of thrift, the carelessness of its owner.
Poetry implies the whole truth, philosophy expresses a particle of it.
Would you see your mind, look into the sky. Would you know your own moods, be weather-wise. He whom the weather disappoints, disappoints himself.
Let all things give way to the impulse of expression. It is the bud unfolding, the perennial spring. As well stay the spring. Who shall resist the thaw?...
The word is well naturalized or rooted that can be traced back to a Celtic original. It is like getting out stumps and fat pine roots....
Nature never indulges in exclamations, never says ah! or alas! She is not French. She is a plain writer, uses few gestures, does not add to her verbs, uses few adverbs, no expletives. I find that I use many words for the sake of emphasis, which really add nothing to the force of my sentences, and they look relieved the moment I have canceled these, words which express my mood, my conviction, rather than the simple truth.
Youth supplies us with colors, age with canvas.... Paint is costly.... I think the heavens have had but one coat of paint since I was a boy, and their blue is paled and dingy and worn off in many places. I cannot afford to give them another coat. Where is the man so rich that he can give the earth a second coat of green in his manhood, or the heavens a second coat of blue. Our paints are all mixed when we are young.... You would not suspect that some men's heavens had ever been azure or celestial, but that their painter had cheated them....
It is good to break and smell the black birch twigs now. The lichens look rather bright today.... When they are bright and expanded, is it not a sign of a thaw or of rain? The beauty of lichens with their scalloped leaves, the small attractive fields, the crinkled edge! I could study a single piece of bark for hours. How they flourish! I sympathize with their growth....
From these cliffs at this moment, the clouds in the west have a singular brassy color, and they are arranged in an unusual manner. A new disposition of the clouds will make the most familiar country appear foreign, like Tartary or Arabia Felix....
Jan. 26, 1853. Up river on ice, 9 A. M., above Pantry. A sharp cutting air. This is a pretty good winter morning, however. Not one of the rarer. There are from time to time mornings, both in summer and winter, when especially the world seems to begin anew, beyond which memory need not go, for not behind them is yesterday and our past life, when as in the morning of a hoar frost there are visible the effects as of a certain creative energy. The world has visibly been recreated in the night.
Mornings of creation I call them. In the midst of these marks of a creative energy recently active, while the sun is rising with more than usual splendor, I look back for the era of this creation not into the night, but to a dawn for which no man ever rose early enough a morning which carries us back beyond the Mosaic creation, where crystallizations are fresh and unmelted. It is the poet's hour. Mornings when men are new born, men who have the seeds of life in them. It should be a part of my religion to be abroad then. This is not one of those mornings, but a clear, cold, airy winter day.
It is surprising how much room there is in nature if a man will follow his proper path. In these broad fields, in these extensive woods, on this stretching river, I never meet a walker. Passing behind the farm-houses, I see no man out. Perhaps I do not meet so many men as I should have met three centuries ago when the Indian hunter roamed these woods. I enjoy the retirement and solitude of an early settler. Men have cleared some of the earth, which is no doubt an advantage to the walker. I see a man sometimes chopping in the woods, or planting or hoeing in a field at a distance, and yet there may be a lyceum meeting in the evening, and there is a book shop and library in the village, and five times a day I can be whirled to Boston in an hour....
A slight fine snow has fallen in the night and drifted before the wind. I observe that it is so distributed over the ice as to show equal spaces of bare ice and of snow at pretty regular distances. I have seen the same phenomenon on the surface of snow in fields as if the little drifts disposed themselves according to the same law that makes waves of water. There is now a fine steam-like snow blowing over the ice, which continually lodges here and there, and forthwith a little drift accumulates. But why does it lodge at such regular intervals? I see this fine drifting snow in the air, ten or twelve feet high at 'a distance. Perhaps it may have to do with the manner in, or the angle at, which the wind strikes the earth.
Jan. 26, 1855.... P. M. A thick driving snow, something like, but less than, that of the 19th. There is a strong easterly wind.... I am afraid I have not described vividly enough the aspect of that lodging snow of the 19th and to-day partly. Imagine the innumerable twigs and boughs of the forest, as you stand in its midst, crossing each other at every conceivable angle on every side, from the ground to thirty feet in height, with each its zigzag wall of snow four or five inches high, so innumerable at different distances, one behind another, that they completely close up the view like a loose woven and downy screen into which, however, stooping and winding, you ceaselessly advance. The wintriest scene, which perhaps can only be seen in perfection while the snow is yet falling before wind and thaw begin. Else you miss the delicate touch of the Master. A coarse woof and warp of snowy batting, leaving no space for a bird to perch. I see where a partridge has waddled through the snow still falling, making a continuous track. I look in the direction to which it points, and see the bird just skimming over the bushes fifteen rods off. The plumes of pitch pines are first filled up solid, and then they begin to make great snowy cassetetes or pestles. In the fields the air is thick with driving snow. You see only a dozen rods into its warp and woof. It fills either this ear or that and your eyes with hard, cutting, blinding scales, if you face it. It is forming shelly drifts behind the walls, and stretches in folds across the roads. But in deep, withdrawn hollows in the woods the flakes at last come gently and deviously down, lodging on every twig and leaf, forming deep, downy, level beds between, and on the ice of the pools.
Jan. 26, 1856.... As I was talking with Miss Mary Emerson this evening, she said, "It was not the fashion to be so original when I was young." She is readier to take my view, to look through my eyes for the time being, than any young woman that I know in the town.
Jan. 26, 1858.... One may eat and drink and sleep and digest, and do the ordinary duties of a man, and have no excuse for sending for a doctor, and yet he may have reason to doubt if his life is as valuable and divine as that of an oyster. He may be the very best citizen in the town, and yet it shall occur to him to prick himself with a pin to see if be is alive. It is wonderful how quiet, harmless, and ineffective a living creature may be. No more energy may it have than a fungus that lifts the bark of a decaying tree. I raised last summer a squash which weighed 123} lbs. if it had fallen on me it would have made as deep and lasting an impression as most men do. I would just as lief know what it thinks about God as what most men think, or are said to think. In such a squash you have already got the bulk of a man. Many a man, perchance, when I have put such a question to him, opens his eyes for a moment, essays to think like a rusty firelock out of order, then calls for a plate of that same squash to eat, and goes to sleep, as it is called, and that is no great distance to go, surely.
Some men have a peculiar taste for bad words, mouthing and licking them into lumpish shapes, as the bear treats her cubs, words like tribal and ornamentation which drag a dead tail after them. They will pick you out of a thousand Vie still-born words, the falsettoes, the wing-clipt and lame words, as if only the false notes caught their ears. They cry encore to all the discords.
The cocks crow in the yard, and the hens cackle and scratch all this winter. Eggs must be plenty.
Jan. 1840. You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill as to embrace the complete idea of poetry even in thought. The best book is only an advertisement of it, such as is sometimes sewed in with its cover. It has a logic more severe than the logician's.
Jan. 27, 1840. What a tame life we are living! How little heroic it is! Let us devise never so perfect a system of living, and straight.. way the soul leaves it to shuffle along its own way alone. It is easy enough to establish a durable and harmonious routine. Immediately all parts of nature consent to it. The sun-dial still points to the noon mark, and the sun rises and sets for it. The neighbors are never fatally obstinate when such a scheme is to be instituted, but forthwith all lend a hand, ring the bell, bring fuel and lights, put by work, and don their best garments, with an earnest conformity which matches the operations of nature. There is always a present and extant life which men combine to uphold, though its insufficiency is manifest enough. Still the sing-song goes on. Only make something take the place of something, and men will behave as if it were the thing they wanted. They must behave at any rate, and will work up any material.
Jan. 27, 1852. The peculiarity of a work of genius is the absence of the speaker from his speech. He is but the medium. You behold a perfect work, but you do not behold the worker. I read its page, but it is as free from any man that can be remembered as an impassable desert. I think that the one word which will explain the Shakespeare miracle is unconsciousness. If he had known his own comparative eminence, he would not have failed to publish it incessantly, though Bacon did not. There probably has been no more conscious age than the present....
I do not know but thoughts written down thus in a journal might be printed in the same form with greater advantage than if the related ones were brought together into separate essays. They are now allied to life, and are seen by the reader not to be far-fetched. It is... less artificial. I feel that in the other case I should have no proper frame for my sketches. Mere facts and names and dates communicate more than we suspect. Whether the flower looks better in the nosegay than in the meadow where it grew, and we had to wet our feet to get it! Is the scholastic air any advantage?
Jan. 28, 1852. Perhaps I can never find so good a setting for my thoughts as I shall thus have taken them out of. The crystal never sparkles more brightly than in the cavern.. The world has always loved best the fable with the moral. The children could read the fable alone the grown up read both. The truth so told has the best advantage of the most abstract statement, for it is not the less universally applicable. Where else will you ever find the cement for your thoughts? How will you ever rivet them together without leaving the marks of the file? Yet Plutarch did not so. Montaigne did not so. Men have written travels in this form, but perhaps no man's daily life has been rich enough to be journalized. Our life should be so active and progressive as to be a journey. Our meals should all be of journey cake and hasty pudding. We should be more alert, see the sun rise, not keep fashionable hours, enter a house, our own house as a khan or caravansary. At noon I did not dine, I ate my journey cake, I quenched my thirst at a spring or a brook. As I sat at the table, the hospitality was so perfect and the repast so sumptuous that I seemed to be breaking my fast upon a bank in the midst of an arduous journey, that the water seemed to be a living spring, the napkins grass, the conversation free as the winds, and the servants that waited on us were our simple desires. Cut off from Pilpay and Ζsop the moral alone at the bottom, would that content you?
Jan. 27, 1853. Trench says a wild man is a willed man; well, then, a man of will who does what he wills or wishes, a man of hope and of the future tense, for not only the obstinate is willed, but, far more, the constant and persevering. The obstinate man, properly speaking, is one who wills not. The perseverance of the saints is positive willedness, not a mere passive willingness. The fates are wild, for they will, and the Almighty is wild above all, as fate is.
What are our fields but felds or felled woods. They bear a more recent name than the woods, suggesting that previously the earth was covered with woods. Always in a new country a field is a clearing.
Jan. 27, 1854. I have an old account book found in Dea. R. Brown's garret since his death. The first leaf or two is gone. Its cover is brown paper, on which, amid many marks and scribblings, I find written :
"MR. EPHRAIM JONES.
HIS WAST BOOK,
It extends from November 8, 1742, to June 20, 1743, inclusive. It appears without doubt from the contents of this book that [this Jones] is the one of whom Shattuck writes in his history that he "married Mary Hayward, 1728, and died Nov. 29, 1756, aged 51, having been captain, town-clerk, and otherwise distinguished." His father's name was Ephraim, and he had a son Ephraim.... The book is filled with familiar Concord names, the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of the present generation. Dr. Hartshorn, who lived to be ninety-two, and Dr. Temple send to the store once or twice. It is more important now what was bought than who bought it. The articles most commonly bought are mohair (a kind of twist to sew on buttons with), usually with buttons, rum, often only a gill to drink at the store (more of these than anything else), salt, molasses, shalloon, fish, calico, some sugar, a castor bat, almanac, psalter, and sometimes primer and testament, paper, knee - buckles and shoe - buckles, garters and spurs,... deer skins, a fan, a cart - whip, various kinds of cloth and trimmings,... gloves, a spring knife, an ink-horn, a gun cap, spice,... timber, iron, earthenware, etc., no tea (I am in doubt about one or two entries), nor coffee, nor meal, nor flour. Of the last two they probably raised all they wanted. Credit is frequently given for timber, and once for cloth brought to the store.
On the whole, it is remarkable how little provision was sold at the store. The inhabitants raised almost everything for themselves. Chocolate is sold once. Rum, salt, molasses, fish, a biscuit with their drink, a little spice and the like, are all that commonly come under this head that I remember. On a loose piece of paper... is Jonathan Dwight's (innholder's (?)) bill against the estate of Captain Ephraim Jones for entertainment, etc. (apparently he treated his company), at divers times for half a dozen years, amounting to over £146. The people apparently made their own cloth and even thread, and hence for the most part bought only buttons and mohair and a few trimmings....
Jan. 18th '42 (3) "John Melvin Cr. by 1 Grey fox 0-2-3."
Feb. 14 '42 (3) "Aaron Parker Cr. by 100 squirell skins 0-6-3." Deer skins were sold at from ten to seventeen shillings. Sometimes it is written "old" or "new tenor." Many of the customers came from as far as Harvard or much farther....
No butter, nor rice, nor oil, nor candles are sold. They must have used candles, made their own butter, and done without rice. There is no more authentic history of those days than this "Wast Book" contains, and relating to money matters, it is more explicit than almost any other statement. Something must be said. Each line contains and states explicitly a fact. It is the best of evidence of several facts. It tells distinctly and authoritatively who sold, who bought, the article, amount, and value, and the date. You could not easily crowd more facts into one line. You are informed when the doctor or deacon had a new suit of clothes by the charge for mohair, buttons and trimmings, or a castor hat, and here also is entered the rum which ran down their very throats....
We begin to die not in our senses and extremities, but in our divine faculties. Our members may be sound, our sight and hearing perfect, but our genius and imagination betray signs of decay. You tell me that you are growing old, and are troubled to see without glasses, but this is unimportant if the divine faculty of the seer shows no signs of decay.
Jan. 27, 1857.... The most poetic and truest account of objects is generally given by those who first observe them, or the discoverers of them, whether a sharper perception and curiosity in them led to the discovery or the greater novelty more inspired their report. Accordingly, I love most to read the accounts of a country, its natural productions and curiosities, by those who first settled it, and also the earliest, though often unscientific writers on natural science.
Jan. 27, 1858. P. M. To Hill and beyond. It is so mild and moist as I saunter along by the wall and cast of the hill that I remember or anticipate one of those warm rain storms in the spring when the earth is just laid bare, the wind is south, and the Cladonia lichens are swollen and lusty with moisture, your foot sinking into them, and pressing the water out as from a sponge, and the sandy places also are drinking it in. You wander indefinitely in a beaded coat, wet to the skin of your legs, sit on moss-clad rocks and stumps, and hear the lisping of migrating sparrows flitting amid the shrub oaks, sit long at a time, still, and have your thoughts. A rain which is as serene as fair weather, suggesting fairer weather than was ever seen. You could hug the clods that defile you. You feel the fertilizing influence of the rain in your mind. The part of you that is wettest is fullest of life, like the lichens. You discover evidences of immortality not known to divines. You cease to die. You detect some buds and sprouts of life. Every step in the old rye field is on virgin soil. And then the rain comes thicker and faster than before, thawing the remaining part of the ground, detaining the migrating bird, and you turn your back to it, full of serene, contented thoughts, soothed by the steady dropping on the withered leaves, more at home for being abroad, sinking at each step deep into the thawing earth, gladly breaking through the gray rotting ice. The dullest sounds seem sweetly modulated by the air. You leave your tracks in fields of spring rye, scaring the fox-colored sparrows along the woodsides,... full of joy and expectation, seeing nothing but beauty, hearing nothing but music, as free as the fox-colored sparrow,... not indebted to any academy or college for this expansion, but chiefly to the April sun which shineth on all alike, not encouraged by men in your walks, not by the divines or the professors, and to the lawgiver an outlaw.... Steadily the eternal rain falls, drip, drip, drip, the mist drives and clears your sight, the wind blows and warms your sitting on that sandy upland that April day.
Jan. 27, 1859. I see some of those little cells, perhaps of a wasp or bee, made of clay or clayey mud. It suggests that those insects were the first potters. They look somewhat like small stone jugs.
Jan. 27, 1860.... When you think your walk is profitless and a failure, and you can hardly persuade yourself not to return, it is on the point of being a success, for then you are in that subdued and knocking mood to which nature never fails to open.
Jan. 28, 1841. No innocence can quite stand up under suspicion, if it is conscious of being suspected. In the company of one who puts a mean construction upon your actions, they are apt really to deserve such a construction. While in that society I can never retrieve myself. Attribute to me a great motive and I shall not fail to have one, but a mean one, and the fountain of virtue will be poisoned by the suspicion. Show men unlimited faith as the coin with which you will deal with them, and they will invariably exhibit the best wares they have. I would meet men as the friend of all their virtue, and the foe of all their vice, for no man is the partner of his guilt.
If you suspect me, you will never see me, but all our intercourse will be the politest leave-taking. I shall constantly defer and apologize, and postpone myself in your presence. The self-defender is accursed in the sight of gods and men; he is a superfluous knight who serves no lady in the land. He will find in the end that he has been fighting windmills, and has battered his mace to no purpose. The injured man resisting his fate is like a tree struck by lightning which rustles its sere leaves the winter through, not having vigor enough to cast them off....
Resistance is a very wholesome and delicious morsel at times. When Venus advanced against the Greeks with resistless valor, it was by far the most natural attitude into which the poet could throw his hero, to make him resist heroically. To a devil one might yield gracefully, but a god would be a worthy foe, and would pardon the affront....
Let your mood determine the form of salutation, and approach the creature with a natural nonchalance, as though he were anything but what be is, and you were anything but what you are, as though he were he, and you were you in short, as though he were so insignificant that it did not signify and so important that it did not import.
Jan. 28, 1852.... They showed me Johnny Riorden to-day, with one thickness of ragged cloth over his little shirt for all this cold weather, with shoes having large holes in the toes into which the snow got, as he said, without an outer garment, walking a mile to school every day over the bleakest of causeways where I know, by my own experience, a grown man could not walk at times without freezing his ears, if they were exposed, but infant blood circulates faster. The clothes with countless patches which claimed descent from pantaloons of mine set as if his mother had fitted them to a tea-kettle first. This little specimen of humanity, this tender gobbet of the fates east into a cold world with a torn lichen leaf wrapped about him; is man so cheap that he cannot be clothed but with a mat or rag? that we should bestow on him our cold victuals?... Let the mature rich wear the rags and insufficient clothing, let the infant poor wear the purple and fine linen. I shudder when I think of the fate of innocency.... A charity which dispenses the crumbs which fall from its overloaded tables, which are left after its feasts, whose waste and whose example produced that poverty!
3 P. M. Went round by Tuttle's road and so out on to the Walden road. These warmer days the wood - chopper finds that the wood cuts easier than when it had the frost in its sapwood, though it does not split so readily. Thus every change in the weather has its influence on him, and is appreciated by him in a peculiar way. The wood-cutter and his practices and experiences are more to be attended to. His accidents, perhaps more than any others, should mark the epochs in the winter day. Now that the Indian is gone, he stands nearest to nature. Who has written the history of his day? How far still is the writer of books from the man, his old playmate it may be, who chops in the woods? There are ages between them. Homer refers to the progress of the woodcutter's work to mark the time of day on the plains of Troy, and the inference commonly is that he lived in a more primitive state of society than the present. But I think this is a mistake. Like proves like in all ages, and the fact that I myself should take pleasure in referring to just such simple and peaceful labors which are always proceeding, that the contrast itself always attracts the civilized poet to what is rudest and most primitive in his contemporaries, all this rather proves a certain interval between the poet and the chopper whose labor he refers to, than an unusual nearness to him, on the principle that familiarity breeds contempt. Homer is to be subjected to a very different kind of criticism from any he has received. That reader who most fully appreciates the poet, and derives the greatest pleasure from his work, himself lives in circumstances most like those of the poet himself.
About Blister's spring the ferns which have been covered with snow are still quite green. The skunk - cabbage in the water is already pushed up, and I find the pinkish head of flowers within its spathe is bigger than a pea.
Jan. 28, 1853. Saw three ducks sailing in the river... this afternoon, black with white on wings, though these two or three have been the coldest days of the winter, and the river is generally closed.
Jan. 28, 1857. Am again surprised to see a song sparrow sitting for hours on our wood-pile... in the midst of snow in the yard. 'It is unwilling to move. People go to the pump, and the cat and dog walk round the wood-pile without starting it. I examine it at my leisure through a glass. Remarkable that this coldest of all winters this bird should remain. Perhaps it is no more comfortable this season farther south where they are accustomed to abide. In the afternoon this sparrow joined a flock of tree sparrows on the bare ground west of the house. It was amusing to see the tree sparrows wash themselves, standing in the puddles and tossing the water over themselves. They have had no opportunity to wash for a month perhaps, there having been no thaw. The song sparrow did not go off with them.
Jan. 28, 1858. Minott has a sharp ear for the note of any migratory bird. Though confined to his dooryard by rheumatism, he commonly hears them sooner than the widest rambler. May be he listens all day for them, or they come and sing over his house, report themselves to him, and receive their season ticket. He is never at fault. If he says he heard such a bird, though sitting by his chimney side, you may depend on it. He can swear through glass. He has not spoiled his ears by attending lectures and caucuses. The other day the rumor went that a flock of geese had been seen flying over Concord, mid-winter as it was by the almanac. I traced it to Minott, and yet I was compelled to doubt. I had it directly that he had heard them within a week. I made haste to him, his reputation was at stake. He said that he stood in his shed out of the late muggy, April-like mornings, when he heard one short, but distinct honk of a goose. He went into the house, took his cane, exerted himself, or that sound imparted strength to him, lame as he was, went up on to the hill, a thing he had not done for a year, that he might hear all around. He saw nothing, but heard the note again. It came from over the brook. It was a wild goose. He was sure of it. He thought that the back of the winter was broken, if it had any this year, but he feared such a winter would kill him too. Hence the rumor spread and grew. I was silent, pondered, and abandoned myself to unseen guides. I drew into my mind all its members like the tortoise. Suddenly the truth flashed on me, and I remembered that within a week I had heard of a box at the tavern which had come by railroad express containing three wild geese, and directed to his neighbor over the brook. The April-like morning had excited one so that he honked, and Minott's reputation acquired new lustre....
As I come through the village at 11 P. M., the sky is completely overcast, and the perhaps thin clouds are very distinctly pink or reddish, somewhat as if reflecting a distant fire, but this phenomenon is universal, all round and overhead. I suspect there is a red aurora borealis behind.
Jun. 29, 1840. A friend in history looks like some premature soul. The nearest approach to a community of love in these days is like the distant breaking of waves on the sea-shore. An ocean there must be, for it washes our beach. This alone do all men sail for, trade for, plow for, preach for, fight for.
The Greeks, like those of the south generally, expressed themselves with more facility than we, in distinct and lively images, and so far as relates to the grace and completeness with which they treated the subjects suited to their genius, they must be allowed to retain their ancient supremacy. But a rugged and uncouth array of thought, though never so modern, may rout them at any moment. It remains for other than Greeks to write the literature of the next century.
Aschylus had a clear eye for the commonest things. His genius was only an enlarged common sense. He adverts with chaste severity to all natural facts. His sublimity is Greek sincerity and simpleness, naked wonder at what mythology had not helped to explain. He is competent to express any of the common manly feelings. If his hero is to make a boast, it does not lack fullness, it is as boastful as could be desired. He has a flexible mouth and can fill it readily with strong, sound words, so that you will say the man's speech wants nothing. He has left nothing unsaid, but has actually wiped his lips of it. Whatever the common eye sees at all and expresses as best it may, he sees uncommonly, and expresses with rare completeness. The multitude that thronged the theatre could no doubt go along with him to the end. The Greeks had no transcendent geniuses like Milton and Shakespeare, whose merit only posterity could fully appreciate.
The social condition is the same in all ages. Aschylus was undoubtedly alone and without sympathy in his simple reverence for the mystery of the universe.
Jan. 29, 1841. There is something proudly thrilling in the thought that this obedience to conscience and trust in God, which is so solemnly preached in extremities and arduous circumstances, is only a retreat to one's self and reliance on one's own strength. In trivial circumstances I find myself sufficient to myself, and in the most momentous, I have no ally but myself, and must silently put by their harm by my own strength, as I did with the former. As my own hand bent aside the willow in my path, so must my single arm put to flight the devil and his angels. God is not our ally when we shrink, and neuter when we are bold.... When you trust, do not lay aside your armor, but put it on and buckle it tighter. If by reliance on the gods I have disbanded one of my forces, then was it poor policy.... There is more of God and divine help in a man's little finger than in idle prayer and trust.
The best and bravest deed is that which the whole man, heart, lungs, bands, fingers, and toes at any time prompt. Each hanger -on in the purlieus of the camp... must fall into the line of march. If a single sutler delay to make up his pack, then suspect the fates and consult the oracles again. This is the meaning of integrity; this it is to be an integer, and not a fraction. Be even for all virtuous ends, but odd for all vice....
Friends will have to be introduced each time they meet. They will be eternally strange to one another, and when they have mutually oppropriated the last hour, they will go and gather a new measure of strangeness for the next. They are like two boughs crossed in the wood, which play backwards and forwards upon one another in the wind, and only wear into each other, but never does the sap of the one flow into the pores of the other, for then the wind would no more draw from them those strains which enchanted the wood. They are not two united, but rather one divided.
Of all strange and unaccountable things this journalizing is the strangest. It will allow nothing to be predicated of it. Its good is not good, nor its bad, bad. If I make a huge effort to expose my innermost and richest wares to light, my counter seems cluttered with the meanest home-made stuff, but after months or years, I may discover the wealth of India, and whatever rarity is brought overland from Cathay, in that confused heap, and what seemed perhaps a festoon of dried apple or pumpkin will prove a string of Brazilian diamonds, or pearls from Coromandel.
Men lie behind the barrier of a relation as effectually concealed as the landscape by a mist; and when at length some unforeseen accident throws me into a new attitude toward them, I am astounded as if for the first time I saw the sun on the hillside. They lie out before me like a new order of things, as when the master meets his pupil as a man. Then first do we stand under the same heavens, and master and pupil alike go down the resistless ocean stream together.
Jan. 29, 1852. We must be very active, if we would be clean, live our own life and not a languishing and scurvy one. The trees which are stationary are covered with parasites, especially those which have grown slowly. The air is filled with the fine sporules of countless mosses, algae, lichens, fungi, which settle and plant themselves on all quiet surfaces. Under the nails and between the joints of the fingers of the idle flourish crops of mildew, algae, fungi, and other vegetable sloths, though they may be invisible, the lichens where life still exists, the fungi where decomposition has begun to take place, and the sluggard is soon covered with sphagnum. Algae take root in the corners of his eyes, and lichens cover the bulbs of his fingers and his head.... This is the definition of dirt. We fall a prey to others of nature's tenants who take possession of the unoccupied house. With the utmost inward alacrity we have to wash and comb ourselves... to get rid of the adhering seeds. Cleanliness is by activity not to give any quiet shelf for the seeds of parasitic plants to take soot on....
The forcible writer does not go far for his themes. His ideas are not far-fetched. He derives inspiration from his chagrins and his satisfactions. His theme being ever an instant one, his own gravity assists him, gives impetus to what he says. He does not speculate while others drudge for him.
I am often reminded that if I had bestowed on me the wealth of Crsus, my aims must still be the same, and my means essentially the same....
Few are the days when the telegraph harp rises into a pure, clear melody. The wind may blow strong or soft in this or that direction, naught, will you hear but a low hum or murmur, or even a buzzing sound, but at length when some undistinguishable zephyr blows, when the conditions, not easy to be detected, arrive, it suddenly and unexpectedly rises into melody, as if a god had touched it, and fortunate is the walker who chances to be within hearing. So is it with the lyres of bards. For the most part it is only a feeble and ineffectual hum that comes from them, which leads you to expect the melody you do not hear. When the gale is modified, when the favorable conditions occur and the indescribable coincidence takes place, then there is music. Of a thousand buzzing strings, only one yields music. It is like the hum of the shaft or other machinery of a steamboat, which at length might become music in a divine hand....
Heard C. lecture to-night. It was a bushel of nuts, perhaps the most original lecture I ever heard; ever so unexpected, not to be foretold, and so sententious that you could not look at him, and take his thought at the same time. You had to give your undivided attention to the thoughts, for you were not assisted by set phrases or modes of speech intervening. There was no sloping up or down to or from his points. It was all genius, no talent. It required more close attention, more abstraction from surrounding circumstances than any lecture I have heard, for well as I know C., he more than any man disappoints my expectation. When I meet him in the dark, hear him, I cannot realize that I ever saw him before. He will be strange, unexpected to his best acquaintance. I cannot associate the lecturer with the companion of my walks. The lecture was from so original and peculiar a point of view, yet just to himself in the main, that I doubt if three in the audience apprehended a tithe of what he said. It was so hard to hear that doubtless few made the exertion, a thick succession of mountain passes, and no intermediate slopes and plains. Other lectures, even the best, in which so much space is given to the elaborate development of a few ideas, seemed somewhat meagre in comparison. Yet it would be how much more glorious if talent were added to genius, if there were a just arrangement and development of the thoughts, if each step were not a leap, but he ran a space to take a yet higher leap. Most of the spectators sat in front of the performer, but here was one who, by accident, sat all the while on one side, and his report was peculiar and startling.
Jan. 30, 1852. Channing's lecture was full of wise, acute, and witty observations, yet most of the audience did not know but it was mere incoherent and reckless verbiage and nonsense. I lose my respect for people who do not know what is good and true. I know full well that readers and hearers, with the fewest exceptions, ask me for my second best.
Jan. 29, 1854. A very cold morning. Mercury 18° below zero. Varro says arista, the beard of grain, is so called because it dries first (quod arescit prima), the grain, Branum, is a gerendo, for the object of planting is that this may be borne. "But the spica or ear which the rustics call speca, as they have received it from their forefathers, seems to be named from ape (hope), eam mina quod sperant fore, because they hope that this will be hereafter."
Jan. 29, 1856.... It is observable that not only the moose and the wolf disappear before the civilized man, but even many species of insects, such as the black fly and the almost microscopic "No-see-em." How imperfect a notion have we commonly of what was the actual condition of the place where we dwell, three centuries ago.
Jan. 29, 1858. P. M. To Great Meadows at Copan.... Found some splendid fungi on old aspens used for a fence; quite firm, reddish white above, and bright termilion beneath, or perhaps more scarlet, reflecting various shades as it is turned. It is remarkable that the upper side of the fungus, which must, as here, commonly be low on decaying wood, so that we look down on it, is not bright colored nor handsome, and it was only when I had broken it off and turned it over that I was surprised by its brilliant color. This intense vermilion (?) face, which would be known to every boy in the town if it were turned upward, faces the earth, and is discerned only by the curious naturalist. Its ear is turned down listening to the honest praises of the earth. It is like a light red velvet or damask. These silent and motionless fungi with their ears turned ever downward to the earth, revealing their bright color perchance only to the prying naturalist who turns them upward, remind me of the "Hear-all" of the story.
Jan. 29, 1860.... As usual, I now see, as I walk on the river and river meadow ice, thinly covered with the fresh snow, that conical rainbow, or parabola of rainbow-colored reflections from the myriad reflecting crystals of the snow, i. e., as I walk toward the sun, always a little in advance of me, of course, the angle of reflection being equal to that of incidence.
Jan. 30, 1841.... The fashions of the wood are more fluctuating than those of Paris. Snow, rime, ice, green and dry leaves incessantly make new patterns. There are all the shapes and hues of the kaleidoscope, and the designs and ciphers of books of heraldry, in the outlines of the trees. Every time I see a nodding pine top, it seems as if a new fashion of wearing plumes had come into vogue....
You glance up these paths, closely embraced by bent trees, as through the side aisles of a cathedral, and expect to hear a choir chanting from their depths. You are never so far in them as they are far before you. Their secret is where you are not, and where your feet can never carry you....
Here is the distinct trail of a fox stretching a quarter of a mile across the pond.... I am curious to know what has determined its graceful curvatures, its greater or less spaces and distinctness, and how surely they were coincident with the fluctuations of some mind, why they now lead me two steps to the right, and then three to the left. If these things are not to be called up and accounted for in the Lamb's Book of Life, I shall set them down for careless accountants. Here was the expression of the divine mind this morning. The pond was his journal, and last night's snow made a tabula rasa for him. I know which way a mind wended this morning, what horizon it faced, by the setting of these tracks, whether it moved slowly or rapidly, by the greater or less intervals and distinctness, for the swiftest step leaves yet a lasting trace.... Fair Haven pond is scored with the trails of foxes, and you may see where they have gamboled and gone through a hundred evolutions, which testify to a singular listlessness and leisure in nature.
Suddenly looking down the river, I saw a fox some sixty rods off making across the hills on my left. As the snow lay five inches deep, he made but slow progress, but it was no impediment to me. So yielding to the instinct of the chase, I tossed my head aloft, and bounded away, snuffing the air like a fox-hound, and spurning the world and human society at each bound. It seemed the woods rang with the hunter's horn, and Diana and all the satyrs joined in the chase and cheered me on. Olympian and Elean youths were waving palms on the hills. In the meanwhile, I gained rapidly on the fox, but he showed a remarkable presence of mind, for instead of keeping up the face of the hill, which was steep and unwooded in that part, he kept along the slope in the direction of the forest, though he lost ground by it. Notwithstanding his fright, he took no step which was not beautiful. The course on his part was a series of most graceful curves. It was a sort of leopard canter, I should say, as if he were nowise impeded by the snow, but were husbanding his strength all the while. When he doubled, I wheeled and cut him off, bounding with fresh vigor, Antffluslike recovering my strength each time I touched the snow. Having got near enough for a fair view, just as he was slipping into the wood, I gracefully yielded him the palm. He ran as if there were not a bone in his back, occasionally dropping his muzzle to the snow for a rod or two, and then tossing his head aloft, when satisfied of his course. When he came to a declivity, he put his fore feet together, and slid down it like a cat. He trod so softly that you could not have heard from any nearness, and yet with such expression that it would not have been quite inaudible from any distance. So hoping this experience would prove a useful lesson to him, I returned to the village by the highway of the river.
Jan. 30, 1852. I feel as if I were gradually parting company with certain friends, just as I perceive familiar objects successively disappear when I am leaving my native town in the cars....
After all, where is the flower lore? for the first book, not the last, should contain the poetry of flowers. The natural system may tell us the value of a plant in medicine or the arts, or for food, but neither it nor the Linntean, to any great extent, tells us its chief value and significance to man, what in any measure accounts for its beauty, its flower-like properties. There will be pages about some fair flower's qualities as food or medicine, but perhaps not a sentence about its significance to the eye (as if the cowslip were better for greens than for yellows), about what children and all flower-lovers gather flowers for. [The book I refer to should be] not addressed to the cook, or the physician, or the dyer merely, but to the lovers of flowers young and old, the most poetical of books in which is breathed man's love of flowers.
Do nothing merely out of good resolutions. Discipline yourself only to yield to love. Suffer yourself to be attracted. It is in vain to write on chosen themes. We must wait till they have kindled a flame in our minds. There must be the... generating force of love behind every effort destined to be successful. The cold resolve gives birth to, begets nothing. The theme that seeks me, not I, it. The poet's relation to his theme is the relation of lovers. It is no more to be courted. Obey, report.
Though they are cutting off the wood at Walden, it is not all loss. It makes some new and unexpected prospects.... As I stood on the partially cleared bank at the E. end of the pond, I looked S. over the side of the hill into a deep dell, still wooded, and saw not more than thirty rods off a chopper at his work. I was half a dozen rods distant from the standing wood, and I saw him through a vista between two trees. He appeared to me charmingly distinct as in a picture, of which the two trees were the frame. He was seen against the snow on the hillside beyond. I could distinguish each part of his dress perfectly, and the axe with distinct outline, as he raised it above his head, the black iron against the snow. I could hear every stroke distinctly. Yet I should have deemed it ridiculous to call to him, he appeared so distant. He appeared with the same distinctness as objects seen through a pin hole in a card. This was the effect rather than what would have been by comparison of him, his size with the nearer trees between which I saw him, and which made the canopied roof of the grove far above his head. It was, perhaps, one of those coincidences and effects which have made men painters. I could not behold him as an actual man. He was more ideal than in any picture I have seen. He refused to be seen as actual; far in the hollow, yet somewhat enlightened aisles of this wooded dell. Some scenes will thus present themselves as picture,... subjects for the pencil,... distinctly marked. They do not require the aid of genius to idealize them. They must be seen as ideal....
I am afraid to travel much, or to famous places, lest it might completely dissipate the mind. Then I am sure that what we observe at home, if we observe anything, is of more importance than what we observe abroad. The far-fetched is of the least value. What we observe in traveling are, to some extent, the accidents of the body; what we observe when sitting at home are, in the same proportion, phenomena of the mind itself. A wakeful night will yield as much thought as a long journey. If we try thoughts by their quality, not their quantity, I may find that a restless night will yield more than the longest journey....
It is remarkable that there is no man so coarse and insensible but he can be profane, can pronounce the word "God" with emphasis in the woods when anything happens to disturb him, as a spoiled child loves to see what liberties he can presume to take. I am only astonished that B should think it any daring, that he should believe in God so much, look round to see if his auditors appreciated his boldness.
Jan. 30, 1854. Another cold morning. 13° below zero.... This morning, though not so cold by a degree or two as yesterday morning, the cold has got more into the house.... The sheets are frozen about the sleeper's face. The teamster's beard is white with ice. Last night I felt it stinging cold as I came up the street at nine o'clock. It bit my ears and face, but the stars shone all the brighter. The windows are all closed up with frost, as if they were of ground glass.... The snow is dry and squeaks under the feet, and the teams creak, as if they needed greasing, sounds associated with extremely cold weather.
r. M. Up river on ice and snow to Fair Haven Pond.... We look at every track in the snow. Every little while there is the track of a fox, may be the same one, across the river, turning aside sometimes to a muskrat's cabin or a point of ice where he has left some traces, and frequently the larger track of a hound which has followed his trail.... This road is so wide that you do not feel confined in it, and you never meet travelers with whom you have no sympathy. The winter, cold and bound out, as it is, is thrown to us like a bone to a famishing dog, and we are expected to get the marrow out of it. While the milkmen in the outskirts are milking so many scores of cows before sunrise these winter mornings, it is our task to milk the winter itself. It is true it is like a cow that is dry, and our fingers are numb, and there is none to wake us up. Some desert the fields, and go into winter quarters in the city. They attend the oratorios, while the only music we countrymen hear is the squeaking of the snow under our boots. But the winter was not given us for no purpose. We must thaw its cold with our genialness. We are tasked to find out and appropriate all the nutriment it yields. If it is a cold and hard season, its fruit no doubt is the more concentrated and nutty. It took the cold and bleakness of November to ripen the walnut, but the human brain is the kernel which the winter itself matures. Not till then does its shell come off.... Because the fruits of the earth are already ripe, we are not to suppose there is no fruit left for winter to ripen.... Then is the great harvest of the year, the harvest of thought. All previous harvests are stubble to this, mere fodder and green crop. Our oil is winter-strained. Now we burn with a purer flame like the stars. Shall we take refuge in.. cities in November?
Shall the nut fall green from the tree? Let not the year be disappointed of its crop. I knew a crazy man who walked into an empty pulpit one Sunday, and taking up a hymn book, remarked, "We have had a good fall for getting in corn and potatoes, let us sing Winter." So I say, "Let us sing winter." What else can we sing, and our voices be in harmony with the season....
As we walked up the river, a little flock of chickadees apparently flew to us from a wood-side fifteen rods off, and uttered their lively day day day, and followed us along a considerable distance, flitting by our side on the button-bushes and willows. It is the most, if not the only, sociable bird we have.
Jan. 30, 1856.... What a difference between life in the city and life in the country at present! between walking in Washington Street, threading your way between countless sledges and travelers over the discolored snow, and crossing Walden Pond, a spotless field of snow surrounded by woods, whose intensely blue shadows and your own are the only objects. What a solemn silence reigns here!
Jan. 30, 1859. How peculiar is the hooting of an owl; not shrill and sharp like the scream of a hawk, but full, round, and sonorous, waking the echoes of the wood.
Jan. 30, 1860. 2 P. To Nut Meadow and White Pond road. Thermometer + 45°. Fair, with a few cumuli of indefinite outline in the N. and S., and dusky under sides. A gentle west wind and a blue haze. Thaws.... The ice has so melted on the meadows that I see where the muskrat has left his clamshells in a heap near the river side where there was a hollow in the bank. The small water-bugs are gyrating abundantly in Nut Meadow Brook. It is pleasant also to see the very distinct ripple marks in the sand at the bottom, of late so rare a sight. I go through the piny field N. W. of Martial Miles's. There are no more beautiful natural parks than these pastures in which the white pines have sprung up spontaneously, standing at handsome intervals, where the wind chanced to let the seed lie at last, and the grass and blackberry vines have not yet been killed by them.
There are certain sounds invariably heard in warm and thawing days in winter, such as the crowing of cocks, the cawing of crows, and sometimes the gobbling of turkeys. The crow, flying high, touches the tympanum of the sky for us, and reveals the tone of it. What does it avail to look at a thermometer or barometer compared with listening to his note! He informs me that nature is in the tenderest mood possible, and I hear the very flutterings of her heart. Crows have singularly wild and suspicious ways. You will see a couple flying high, as if about their business, but, lo, they turn and circle over your head again and again for a mile, and this is their business, as if a mile and an afternoon were nothing for them to throw away; this even in winter when they have no nests to be anxious about. But it is affecting to hear them cawing about their ancient seat... which the choppers are laying low....
The snow flea seems to be a creature whose summer and prime of life is a thaw in the winter. It seems not merely to enjoy this interval like other animals, but then chiefly to exist. It is the creature of the thaw. Moist snow is its element. That thaw which merely excites the cock to sound his clarion, as it were, calls to life the snow flea.
Jan. 31, 1852.... I am repeatedly astonished by the coolness and obtuse bigotry with which some will appropriate the New Testament in conversation with you. It is as if they were to appropriate the sun, and stand between you and it, because they understood you had walked once by moonlight, though that was in the reflected light of the sun which you could not get directly. I have seen two persons conversing at a tea-table, both lovers of the New Testament, each in his own way, the one a lover of all kindred expression of truth also, and yet the other appropriated the book wholly to herself, and took it for granted with singular or rather lamentable blindness and obtuseness that the former neither knew nor cared anything about it. Horace Greeley found some fault with me to the world, because I presumed to speak of the New Testament, using my own words and thoughts, and challenged me to a controversy. The one thought I had was that it would give me real pleasure to know that he loved it as sincerely and intelligently as I did....
That work of man's must be vast indeed which, like the pyramids, looks blue in the horizon, as mountains. Few works of man rise high enough, and with breadth enough to be blued by the air between them and the spectator.
I hear my friend say, "I have lost my faith in men, there are none true, magnanimous, holy, etc., etc., meaning all the while that I do not possess those unattainable virtues. But, worm as I am, this is not wise in my friend, and I feel simply discouraged, so far as my relation to him is concerned. We must have infinite faith in each other.... He erects his want of faith as a barrier between us. When I hear a grown man or woman say, "Once I had faith in men, now I have not," I am inclined to ask, "Who are you whom the world has disappointed?
Have not you rather disappointed the world? There is the same ground for faith now that ever there was. It needs only a little love in you who complain so, to ground it on." For my own part, I am thankful there are those who come so near being my friends that they can be estranged from me. I had faith before; they would destroy the little I have. The mason asks but a narrow shelf to spring his brick from; man requires only an infinitely narrower one to spring the arch of faith from...
I am not sure that I have any right to address to you the words I am about to write. The reason I have not visited you oftener and more earnestly is that I am offended by your pride, your sometime assumption of dignity, your manners which come over me like waves of Lethe. I know that if I stood in that relation to you which you seem to ask, I should not be met. Perhaps I am wiser than you think. Do you never for an instant treat me as a thing, flatter me? You treat me with politeness and I make myself scarce. We have not sympathy enough, do not always apprehend each other. You talk too, too often, as if I were Mr. Tompkins of the firm of , a retired merchant. If I had never thought of you as a friend, I could make much use of you as an acquaintance....
The value of the pitch pine in winter is that it holds the snow so finely. I see it now afar on the hillsides decking itself with it, its whited towers forming coverts where the rabbit and the gray squirrel lurk. It makes the most cheerful winter scenery, beheld from the window, you know so well the nature of the coverts and the sombre light it makes. The young oaks with their red leaves, covering so many acres, are also an indispensable feature of the winter landscape, and the limbs of oak woods where some of the trees have been cut off.
Jan. 31, 1854. P. M. To Great Meadows and Beck Stow's. The wind is more southerly, and now the warmth of the sun prevails and is felt on the back. The snow softens and melts. It is a beautiful, clear, and mild winter day.... But I do not melt. There is no thaw in me. I am bound out still. I see the tree sparrows one or two at a time now and then all winter uttering a faint note, with their bright chestnut crown, and spot on breast, and barred wings. They represent the sparrows in winter....
In winter when there are no flowers, and leaves are rare, even large buds are interesting and somewhat exciting. I go a budding like a partridge. I am always attracted at this season by the buds of the swamp pink, the poplars, and the sweet gale...
We too have our thaws. They come to our January moods, when our ice cracks, and our sluices break loose. Thought that was frozen up under stern experience gushes forth in feeling and expression, This is a freshet which carries away dams of accumulated ice. Our thoughts bide unexpressed like the buds under the downy or resinous scales. They would hardly keep a partridge from starving. If you would know what are my winter thoughts look in the partridge's crop. They are like the laurel buds, some leaf, some blossom buds, which, though food for such indigenous creatures, will not expand into leaves and flowers until summer comes.
Jan. 31, 1855. A clear, cool, beautiful day; fine skating; an unprecedented expanse of ice. At 10 A. M. skated up the river to explore farther than I had been.... The country almost completely bare of snow, only some ice in the roads and fields, and the frozen freshet at this remarkable height. I skated up as far as the boundary between Wayland and Sudbury, just above Pelham's Pond, about twelve miles, between 10 A. M. and 1, quite leisurely. There I found the river open unexpectedly, as if there were a rapid there, and as I walked three quarters of a mile farther, it was still open before me.... All the way I skated there was a chain of meadows, with the muskrat houses still rising above the ice, commonly on the bank of the river, and marking it like smaller haycocks amid the large ones still left. As I skated near the shore under Lee's Cliff, I saw what I took to be some scrags or knotty stubs of a dead limb, lying on the bank beneath a white oak, close by me. Yet while I looked closely at them, I could not but admire their close resemblance to partridges. I had come along with a rapid whir, and suddenly halted right against them, only two rods distant, and as my eyes watered a little from skating against the wind, I was not convinced they were birds, till I had pulled out my glass and deliberately examined them. They sat and stood, three of them, perfectly still, with their heads erect, some darker feathers, like ears methinks, increasing their resemblance to scrags, as where a small limb is broken off. I was much surprised at the remarkable stillness they preserved, instinctively relying on their resemblance to the ground for their protection, i. e., withered grass, dry oak leaves, dead scrags, and broken twigs.... For some time after I had noted their resemblance to birds, standing only two rods off, I could not be sure of their character on account of their perfect motionlessness, and it was not till I brought my glass to bear on them, and distinctly saw their eyes steadily glaring on me and their necks and every muscle tense with anxiety, that I was convinced. At length, on some signal which I did not perceive, they went with a whir, as if shot off, over the bushes.
Feb. 1, 1852. When I hear that a friend on whom I relied has spoken of me, not with cold words, perhaps, but even with a cold and indifferent tone, to another, ah! what treachery I feel it to be! the crime of all crimes against humanity. My friend may cherish a thousand suspicions against me, and they may but represent his faith and expectation, till he cherishes them so heartlessly that he can speak of them.
If I have not succeeded in my friendships, it was because I demanded more of them, and did not put up with what I could get; and I got no more, partly because I gave so little. I must be dumb to those who do not, as I believe, appreciate my actions, not knowing the springs of them.
While we preach obedience to human laws, and to that portion of the divine laws set forth in the New Testament, the natural laws of genius, of love and friendship, we do not preach nor insist upon. How many a seeming heartlessness is to be explained by the very abundance of the heart. How much of seeming recklessness, even selfishness, is to be explained by obedience to this code of the divine laws.
It is evident that as buyers and sellers we obey a very different law from what we do as lovers and friends. The Hindoo is not to be tried in all things by the Christian standard, nor the Christian by the Hindoo. How much fidelity to law of a kind not commonly recognized, how much magnanimity even may be thrown away on mankind, is like pearls cast before swine The hero obeys his own law, the Christian, his, the lover and friend, theirs; they are to some extent different codes. What incessant tragedy between men when one silently obeys the code of friendship, the other, the code of philanthropy, in their dealings with one another. As our constitutions and geniuses are different, so are our standards, and we are amenable to different codes. My neighbor asks me in vain to be good as he is good. I must be good as I am made to be good, whether I am heathen or Christian. Every man's laws are hard enough to obey. The Christian falls as far short of obeying the heathen moral law as the heathen does. One of little faith looks for his rewards and punishments to the next world, and, despairing of this world, behaves accordingly in it; another thinks the present a worthy occasion and arena, sacrifices to it, and expects to hear sympathizing voices. The man who believes in another world and not in this is wont to put me off with Christianity. The present world in which we talk is of a little less value to him than the next world. So we are said to hope in proportion as we do not realize. It is all hope deferred. But one grain of realization, of instant life on which we stand, is equivalent to acres of the leaf of hope hammered out to gild our prospect. The former so qualifies the vision that it gilds all we look upon with the splendor of truth. We must meet the hero on heroic grounds. Some tribes inhabit the mountains. Some dwell on the plains. We discourage one another. We obey different laws.
My friends! my friends! It does not cheer me to see them. They but express their want of faith in me or in mankind. Their coldest, cruellest thought comes clothed in polite and easy spoken words at last. I am silent to their invitations, because I do not feel invited, and we have no reasons to give for what we do not do. One says, "Love me out of this mire." The other says, "Come out of it and be lovely."
Feb. 1, 1855. As I skated up the river yesterday, now here, now there, past the old kingdoms of my fancy, I was reminded of Landor's Richard the I sailed along the realms of my family; on the right was England, on the left was France [on the right was Sudbury, on the left was Wayland ]; little else could I discover than sterile eminences and extensive shoals. They. fled behind me; so pass away generations; so shift and sink, and die away affections." "I debark in Sicily." [That was Tall's Island.] "I sail again, and within a day or two [hour or two] I behold, as the sun is setting, the solitary majesty of Crete [that was Nobscot surely], mother of a religion, it is said, that lived two thousand years. Onward, and many specks bubble up along the blue Ζgean." These must have been the muskrat houses in the meadows. "Every one," I have no doubt, "the monument of a greater man [being?] than I am." The swelling river was belching on a high key from ten to eleven, quite a musical cracking, running like chain lightning of sound athwart my course.... As I passed, the ice forced up by the water on one side suddenly settled on another with a crash, and quite a lake was formed above the ice behind me, so that my successor two hours after, to his wonder and alarm, saw my tracks disappear on one side of it and come out on the other. My seat from time to time is the springy horizontal bough of some fallen tree which is frozen into the ice, some old maple that was blown over and retained some life a year after, in the water, covered with the great shaggy perforate parmelia. Lying flat I quench my thirst where the ice is melted about it, blowing aside the snow fleas. The great arundo in the Sudbury meadows was all level with the ice. There was a great bay of ice stretching up the Pantry, and up Lamed Brook. I looked up a broad, glaring bay of ice at the last place which seemed to reach to the base of Nobscot and almost to the horizon. Some dead maple or oak saplings laid side by side made my bridges, by which I got on to the ice along the watery shore. It was a problem to get off, and another to get on, dry shod.
Feb. 1, 1857. 3 P. M. Down railroad. Thermometer at + 42°. Warm as it is, I see a large flock of snow buntings on the railroad causeway. Their wings are white above, next the body, but black or dark beyond, and on the back. This produces that regular black and white effect when they fly past you.
Feb. 1, 1858. Measured Gowing's swamp two and one half rods N. E. of the middle of the hole, i. e., in the andromeda and sphagnum near its edge, where I stand in the summer; also five rods N. E. of the middle of the open hole, or in the midst of the andromeda. In both these places the pole went hard at first, but broke through a crust of roots and sphagnum at about three feet beneath the surface, and I then easily pushed it down just twenty feet. This being a small pole, I could not push it any farther, holding it by the small end. It bent then. With a longer and stiffer pole, I could probably have fathomed thirty feet. It seems then that there is over this andromeda swamp a crust about three feet thick of sphagnum, andromeda calyculata and polifolia, and kahnia glauca, beneath which there is almost clear water, and under that an exceedingly thin mud. There can be no soil above the mud, and yet there are three or four larch trees three feet high or more between these holes, or over exactly the same water, and small spruce trees near by. For aught that appears, the swamp is as deep under the andromedas as in the middle. The two andromedas and the kalmia glauca may be more truly said to grow in water than in soil there. When the surface of a swamp shakes for a rod around you, you may conclude that it is a network of roots two or three feet thick resting on water or very thin mud. The surface of that swamp, composed in great part of sphagnum, is really floating. It evidently begins with sphagnum which floats on the surface of clear water, and accumulating, at length affords a basis for that large-seeded sedge(?), andromeda, etc. The filling up of a swamp then, in this case at least, is not the result of a deposition of vegetable matter washed into it, settling to the bottom, and leaving the surface clear, so filling it up from the bottom to the top. But the vegetation first extends itself over it in a film which gradually thickens till it supports shrubs, and completely conceals the water. The under part of this crust drops to the bottom, so that it is filled up first at the top and bottom, and the middle part is the last to be reclaimed from the water. Perhaps this swamp is in the process of becoming peat. It has been partially drained by a ditch. I fathomed also two rods within the edge of the blueberry bushes, in the path, but I could not force a pole down more than eight feet five inches, so it is much more solid there, and the blueberry bushes require a firmer soil than the water andromeda. This is a regular quay or shaking surface, and in this way evidently floating islands are formed. I am not sure but that meadow, with all its bushes in it, would float a man-of-war.
Feb. 2, 1841. It is easy to repeat, but hard to originate. Nature is readily made to repeat herself in a thousand forms, and, in the daguerreotype, her own light is amanuensis. The picture, too, has more than a surface significance, a depth equal to the prospect, so that the microscope may be applied to the one, as the spyglass to the other. Thus we may easily multiply the forms of the outward, but to give the within outwardness, that is not easy. That an impression may be taken, perfect stillness, though but for an instant, is necessary. There is something analogous in the birth of all rhymes.
Our sympathy is a gift whose value we can never know, nor when we impart it. The instant of communion is when, for the least point of time, we cease to oscillate and coincide in rest, by as fine a point as a star pierces the firmament....
There is always a single ear in the audience to which we address ourselves.
How much does it concern you, the good opinion of your friend! Therein is the measure of fame. For the herd of men multiplied many times will never come up to the value of one friend. In this society there is no fame but love, for as our name may be on the lips of men, so are we in each other's hearts. There is no ambition but virtue, for why should we go round about who may go direct?...
For our aspirations there is no expression as yet, but if we obey steadily, by another year we shall have learned the language of last year's aspirations....
Weight has something very imposing in it, for we cannot get rid of it. Once in the scales we must weigh. And are we not always in the scales, and weighing just our due, though we kick the beam, and do all we can to make ourselves heavier or lighter?
Feb. 2, 1853. The Stellaria media [common chickweed] is full of frost-bitten blossoms containing stamens, etc., still, and half-grown buds. Apparently it never rests.
Feb. 2, 1854. Up river on ice to Clematis Brook. Another warm, melting day, like yesterday. You can see some softening and relenting in the sky. Apparently the vapor in the air makes a grosser atmosphere more like that of a summer eve. We go up the Corner road and take the ice at Potter's meadow. The Cliff Hill is nearly bare on the west side, and you hear the rush of melted snow down its side in one place. Here and there are regular round holes in the ice over the meadow two or three feet in diameter where the water appears to be warmer, and where are springs, perchance. Therein in shallow water is seen the cress and one or two other plants still quite fresh. The shade of pines on the snow is in some lights quite blue. We stopped a while under Bittern Cliff, the south side, where it is very warm. There are a few greenish radical leaves to be seen, primrose, Johnswort, strawberry, etc., and spleen wort still green in the clefts. These sunny old gray rocks completely covered with white and gray lichens, and overrun with ivy, are a very cozy place. You hardly detect the melted snow swiftly trickling down them, until you feel the drops on your cheek. The winter gnat is seen in the air before the rocks. In their clefts are the latebrζ of many insects, spiders, etc....
The ice is eighteen inches thick on Fair Haven. Saw some pickerel just caught there with a fine lustre on them. Went to the pond in the woods which has an old ditch dug from it near Clematis Brook. The red twigs of the cornel and the yellow ones of the sallows surrounding it are interesting at this season. We prize the least color now. As it is a melting day, the snow is everywhere peppered with snow fleas, even twenty rods from the woods, on the pond and meadows.
The scream of the jay is a true winter sound. It is wholly without sentiment, and in harmony with winter. I stole up within five or six rods of a pitch pine behind which a downy woodpecker was pecking. From time to time he hopped round to the side towards me, and observed me without fear. They are very confident birds, not easily scared, but incline to keep the other side of the bough from you, perhaps.
Already we begin to anticipate spring, to say that the day is spring-like. This is an important difference between this time and a month ago.
Is not January the hardest month to get through? When you have weathered that, you get into the gulf stream of winter, nearer the shores of spring.
Feb. 2; 1855.... This last half inch of snow which fell in the night is just enough to track animals on the ice by. All about the Hill and Rock I see the tracks of rabbits which have run back and forth close to the shore repeatedly since the night. In the case of the rabbit, the fore feet are farther apart than the hind ones, the first, four or five inches to the stride, the last, two or three. They are generally not quite regular, but one of the fore feet a little in advance of the other, and so with the hind feet. There is an interval of about sixteen inches between each four tracks. Sometimes they are in a curve or crescent, all touching.
I saw what must have been a muskrat's or mink's track, I think, since it came out of the water; the tracks roundish, and toes much rayed four or five inches apart on the trail, with only a trifle more between the fore and hind legs, and the mark of the tail in successive curves as it struck the ice. Another track puzzled me, as if a hare had been running like a dog ( . . . eighteen inches apart), and touched its tail, if it had one. This in several places.
Feb. 2, 1858.... As I return from the post-office I hear the hoarse, robin-like chirp of a song sparrow,... and see him perched on the topmost twig of a heap of brush, looking forlorn, and drabbled, and solitary in the rain.
Feb. 2, 1860. 6° at about 8 A. M.... 2 P. M. to Fair Haven Pond. The river, which was breaking up, is frozen over again. The new ice over the channel is of a yellow tinge, and is covered with handsome rosettes two or three inches in diameter where the vapor which rose through froze and crystallized. This new ice for forty rods together is thickly covered with these rosettes, often as thick as snow, an inch deep.... The frozen breath of the river at a myriad breathing holes....
It is remarkable that the straw-colored sedge of the meadows, which in the fall is one of the least noticeable colors, should now, that the landscape is mostly covered with snow, be perhaps the most noticeable of all objects in it for its color, and an agreeable contrast to the snow....
I see where some meadow mouse (if not mole) just came to the surface of the snow, enough to break it with his back for three or four inches, then put his head out, and at once withdrew it.
We walked as usual in the fresh track of a fox, peculiarly pointed, and sometimes the mark of two toe-nails in front separate from the track of the foot in very thin snow. As we were kindling a fire on the pond by the side of the island, we saw the fox himself at the inlet of the river. He was busily examining along the sides of the pond by the button - bushes and willows, smelling in the snow. Not appearing to regard us much, he slowly explored along the shore of the pond thus half way round it; at Pleasant Meadow evidently looking for mice (or moles?) in the grass of the bank, smelling in the shallow snow there, amid the stubble, often retracing his steps, and pausing at particular spots. He was eagerly searching for food, intent on finding some mouse to help fill his empty stomach. He had a blackish tail and blackish feet, looked lean, and stood high. The tail peculiarly large for any creature to carry round. He stepped daintily about, softly, and is more to the manor born than a dog. It was a very arctic scene this cold day, and I suppose he would hardly have ventured out in a warm one. The fox seems to get his living by industry and perseverance. He runs smelling for miles along the most favorable routes, especially the edge of rivers and ponds, till he smells the track of a mouse beneath the snow, or the fresh track of a partridge, and then follows it till he comes upon his game.... There may be a dozen partridges resting in the snow within a square mile, and his work is simply to find them with the end of his nose. Compared with the dog he affects me as high-bred, unmixed. There is nothing of the mongrel in him. He belongs to a noble family which has seen its best days, a younger son. Now and then he starts, and turns, and doubles on his track, as if he heard or scented danger. (I watch him through my glass.) He does not mind us at the distance of only sixty rods. I have myself seen to-day one place where a mouse came to the surface in the snow. Probably he has smelled out many such galleries. Perhaps he seizes them through the snow. I had a transient vision of one mouse this winter, and that the first for a number of years.
Feb. 8,1841. The present seems never to get its due. It is the least obvious, neither before nor behind, but within us. All the past plays into this moment, and we are what we are. My aspiration is one thing, my reflection, another; but, over all, myself and condition is and does. To men and nature I am each moment a finished tool, a spade, a barrow, a pickaxe. This immense promise is no efficient quality. For all practical purposes I am done....
We are constantly invited to be what we are, as to something worthy and noble. I never waited but for myself to come round; none ever detained me, but I lagged or staggered after myself.
It steads us to be as true to children and boors, as to God himself. It is the only attitude which will meet all occasions. It only will make the earth yield her increase, and by it do we effectually expostulate with the wind. If I run against a post, this is the remedy.
I would meet the morning and evening on very sincere ground. When the sun introduces me to a new day, I silently say to myself, "Let us be faithful all round. We will do justice and receive it." Something like this is the secret charm of Nature's demeanor towards us, strict conscientiousness, and disregard of us when we have ceased to have regard for ourselves. So she can never offend us. How true she is, and never swerves. In her most genial moment, her laws are as steadfastly and relentlessly fulfilled (though the decalogue is rhymed and set to sweetest music), as in her sternest.
Any exhibition of affection, as an inadvertent word, or act, or look, seems premature, as if the time were not ripe for it, like the buds which the warm days near the end of winter cause to push out and unfold before the frosts are yet gone.
My life must seem as if it were passing -on a higher level than that which I occupy. It must possess a dignity which will not allow me to be familiar.
Feb. 3, 1852. When I review the list of my acquaintances from the most impartial point of view, and consider each one's excesses and defects of character which are the subject of mutual ridicule and astonishment and pity (and I class myself among them), I cannot help asking myself, "If this is the sane world, what must a mad-house be?" It is only by a certain flattery, and an ignoring of their faults, that even the best are made available for society.
I have been to the libraries (yesterday) at Cambridge and Boston. It would seem as if all things compelled us to originality. How happens it that I find not in the country, in the fields and woods, the works even of like-minded naturalists and poets. Those who have expressed the purest and deepest love of nature have not recorded it on the bark of the trees with the lichens, they have left no memento of it there; but if I would read their books, I must go to the city, so strange and repulsive both to them and to me, and deal with men and institutions with whom I have no sympathy. When I have just been there on this errand, it seems too great a price to pay even for access to the works of Homer or Chaucer or Linnζus. Greece and Asia Minor should henceforth bear Iliads and Odysseys, as their trees lichens. But, no; if the works of nature are, to any extent, collected in the forest, the works of men are, to a still greater extent, collected in the city. I have sometimes imagined a library, i. e., a collection of the works of true poets, philosophers, naturalists, etc., deposited not in a brick or marble edifice in a crowded and dusty city, guarded by cold-blooded and methodical officials, and preyed on by bookworms, in which you own no share, and are not likely to, but rather far away in the depths of a primitive forest, like the ruins of Central America, where you could trace a series of crumbling alcoves, the older books protecting the more modern from the elements, partially buried by the luxuriance of nature, which the heroic student could only reach after adventures in the wilderness amid wild beasts and wild men. That, to my imagination, seems a fitter place for these interesting relics which owe no small part of their interest to their antiquity, and whose occasion is nature, than the well-preserved edifice, with its well-preserved officials, on the side of a city's square. More terrible than lions and tigers, these libraries. Access to nature for original observation is secured by one ticket, by one kind of expense; but access to the works of your predecessors, by a very different kind of expense. All things tend to cherish the originality of the original. Nature, at least, takes no pains to introduce him to the works of his predecessors, but only presents him with her own opera omnia. Is it the lover of nature who has access to all that has been written on the subject of his favorite studies? No; he lives far away from this. It is the lover of books and systems who knows nature chiefly at second hand....
About 6 P. M. walked to Cliffs via railroad. Snow quite deep. The sun had set without a cloud in the sky; a rare occurrence, but I missed the clouds which make the glory of evening. The sky must have a few clouds, as the mind a few moods; nor is the evening less serene for them. There is only a tinge of red along the horizon. The moon is nearly full to-night, and the moment is passed when the light in the east (i. e., of the moon) balances the light in the west.... It is perfectly still, and not very cold. The shadows of the trees on the snow are more minutely distinct than at any other season, not dark masses merely, but finely reticulated, each limb and twig represented, as cannot be in summer both from the leaves and the inequality and darkness of the ground.... I hear my old acquaintance, the owl, from the causeway. The reflector of the cars, as I stand over the Deep Cut, makes a large and dazzling light in this air,... and now whizzes the boiling, sizzling kettle by me, in which the passengers make me think of potatoes which a fork would show to be done by this time. The steam is denser for the cold, and more white; like the purest downy clouds in the summer sky its volumes roll up between me and the moon, and far behind, when the cars are a mile off, it still goes shading the fields with its wreaths, the breath of the panting traveler. I now cross from the railroad to the road. This snow, the last of which fell day before yesterday, is two feet deep, pure and powdery.... From a myriad little crystal mirrors the moon is reflected, which is the untarnished sparkle of its surface. I hear a gentle rustling of the oak leaves as I go through the woods, but this snow has yet no troops of leaves on its surface The snow evidently by its smooth crust assists in the more equal dispersion and distribution of the leaves which course over it, blown by the wind. Perchance, for this reason, the oak leaves and some others hang on....
[On Fair Haven Hill.] Instead of the sound of his [the chopper's] axe, I hear the hooting of an owl, nocturnus ululatus, whose haunts he is laying waste. The ground is all pure white, powdery snow, which his sled, etc., has stirred up, except the scattered twigs and pine plumes. I can see every track distinctly where the teamster drove his oxen and loaded his sled, and even the tracks of his dog, in the moonlight, and plainly to write this. The moonlight now is very splendid in the untouched pine woods above the Cliffs, alternate patches of shade and light. The light has almost the brightness of sunlight, the fulgor. The stems of the trees are more obvious than by day, being simple black against the moonlight and the snow. The sough of the breeze in the pine tops sounds far away like the surf on a distant shore, and for all sound beside, there is only the rattling or chafing of little dry twigs, perchance a little snow falling on them, or they are so brittle that they break and fall with the motion of the trees. My owl sounds hoo-hoo-hoo hoo.
The landscape covered with snow seen from these Cliffs, encased in snowy armor two feet thick, gleaming in the moonlight and of spotless white, who can believe that this is the habitable globe. The scenery is wholly arctic. Fair Haven Pond is a Baffin's Bay. Man must have ascertained the limits of the winter before he ventured to withstand it, and not migrate with the birds. No cultivated field, no house, no candle. All is as dreary as the shores of the frozen ocean. I can tell where there is wood and where open land for many miles in the horizon by the darkness of the former and whiteness of the latter.... It looks as if the snow and ice of the arctic world, traveling like a glacier, had crept down southward and overwhelmed New England. See if a man can think his summer thoughts now. But the evening star is preparing to set, and I will return, floundering through snow, sometimes up to my middle....
The forcible writer stands bodily behind his words with his experience. He does not make books out of books, but he has been there in person....
That is a good mythological incident told of the wounded farmer who, his foot being lacerated and held fast between his plow and a fallen tree in a forest clearing, drew his oxen to him with difficulty, smeared their horns with blood which the mosquitoes had drawn from his bare arms, and cutting the reins, sent them home as an advertisement to his family.
Feb. 3, 1854.... Varro speaks of two kinds of pigeons, one of which was wont to alight on the (Columinibus vilke) columns of a villa (a quo appellatce columbce), from which they were called "Columbce." These, on account of their natural timidity (summa loca in tectis captant), delight in the highest places on the roofs (or under cover)?
Feb. 3, 1855.... Skated up the river with T n in spite of the snow and wind.... We went up the Pantry meadow... and came down... again with the wind and snow dust, spreading our coat tails, like birds, though somewhat at the risk of our necks, if we had struck a foul place. I found that I could sail on a tack pretty well, trimming with my skirts. Sometimes we had to jump suddenly over some obstacle, which the snow had concealed, to save our necks. It was worth the while for one to look back against the sun and wind, and see the other sixty rods off,... floating down like a graceful demon in the midst of the broad meadow, all covered and lit with the curling snow steam, between which you saw the ice in dark, waving streaks, like a mighty river Orellana braided of a myriad steaming currents; like the demon of the storm driving his flocks and herds before him. In the midst of this tide of curling snow steam, he sweeps and surges this way and that, and comes on like the spirit of the whirlwind. At Lee's Cliff we made a fire, kindling with white pine cones, after oak leaves and twigs, else we had lost it. The cones saved us, for there is a resinous drop at the point of each scale. There we forgot that we were out doors in a blustering winter day. Flash go your dry leaves like powder, and leave a few bare and smoking twigs. Then you sedulously feed a little flame until the fire takes hold of the solid wood and establishes itself. What an uncertain and negative thing is fire when it finds nothing to suit its appetite after the first flash. What a positive and inexpugnable thing, when it begins to devour the solid wood with a relish, burning with its own wind. You must think as long at last how to put it out as you did how to kindle it. Close up under some upright rock where you scorch the yellow sulphur lichens. Then cast on some creeping juniper wreaths or hemlock boughs to hear them crackle, realizing scripture.
Some little boys ten years old are as handsome skaters as I know. They sweep along with a graceful, floating motion, leaning now to this side, then to that, like a marsh hawk beating the bush....
I still recur in my mind to that skating tour of the 31st. I was thus enabled to get a bird's-eye view of the river, to survey its length and breadth within a few hours, connect one part or shore with another in my mind, and realize what was going on upon it from end to end, to know the whole, as I ordinarily knew a few miles of it only. I connected the chestnut-tree house near the shore in Wayland with the chimney house in Billerica, Pelham's Pond with Nutting's Pond in Billerica. There is good skating from the mouth to Saxonville, measureing in a straight line some twenty-two miles, by the river say thirty now. It is all the way of one character, a meadow river, or dead stream. Musketicook, the abode of muskrats, pickerel, etc., crossed within these dozen miles each way, or thirty in all, by some twenty low wooden bridges, sublicii pontes, connected with the mainland by willowy causeways. Thus the long shallow lakes are divided into reaches. These long causeways all under water and ice now, only the bridges peeping out from time to time, like a dry eyelid. You must look close to find them in many cases, mere islands are they to the traveler in this waste of water and ice. Only two villages lying near the river, Concord and Wayland, and one at each end of this thirty miles.... I used some bits of wood with a groove in them for crossing the causeways and gravelly places, that I might not scratch my skate irons.
Feb. 3, 1856.... P. M. Up North Branch. A strong N. W. wind (and thermometer 11°) driving the snow like steam. About five inches of soft snow now on ice.... Returning, saw near the Island a shrike glide by, cold and blustering-as it was, with a remarkably even and steady sail or gliding motion, like a hawk, eight or ten feet above the ground, and alight on a tree from which, at the same instant, a small bird, perhaps a creeper or nuthatch, flitted timidly away. The shrike was apparently in pursuit.
We go wading through snow now up the bleak river, in the face of a cutting N. W. wind and driving snow-storm, turning now this ear, now that, to the wind, our gloved hands in our bosoms or our pockets. How different this from sailing or paddling up the stream here in July, or poling amid the rocks! Yet still, in one square rod where they have got out ice and a thin transparent covering has formed, I can see the pebbly bottom as in summer.
There comes a deep snow in midwinter covering up the ordinary food of many birds and quadrupeds, but anon a high wind scatters the seeds of pines, hemlocks, birches, alders, etc., far and wide over the surface of the snow, for them.
You may now observe plainly the habit of the rabbits to run in paths about the swamps.
Mr. Emerson, who returned last week from lecturing, on the Mississippi, having been gone but a month, tells me that he saw boys skating on the Mississippi, and on Lake Erie, and on the Hudson, and has no doubt they are skating on Lake Superior. Probably at Boston he might have seen them skating on the Atlantic.
In Barber's "Historical Collections," p. 476, there is a letter by Cotton Mather dated "Boston, 10th Dec., 1717," describing the great snow of the preceding February, from which I quote: "On the twentieth of the last February there came on a snow, which being added unto what had covered the ground a few days before, made a thicker mantle for our mother than what was usual. And the storm with it was, for the following day, so violent as to make all communication between the neighbors everywhere to cease. People, for some hours, could not pass from one side of a street to another."
" On the twenty-fourth day of the month came Pelion upon Ossa. Another snow came on, which almost buried the memory of the former, with a storm so famous that Heaven laid an interdict on the religious assemblies throughout the country on the Lord's day, the like whereunto had never been seen before. The Indians near an hundred years old affirm that their fathers never told them of anything that equaled it. Vast numbers of cattle were destroyed in this calamity, whereof some there were of the stranger [stronger I sort, were found standing dead on their legs, as if they had been alive, many weeks after when the snow melted away. And others had their eyes glazed over with ice at such a rate, that being not far from the sea, their mistake of their way drowned them there. One gentleman on whose farms were lost above eleven hundred sheep, which with other cattle, were interred (shall I say) or arrived in the snow, writes me word that there were two sheep very singularly circumstanced. For, no less than eight and twenty days after the storm, the people pulling out the ruins of above an hundred sheep out of a snow bank which lay sixteen foot high drifted over them, there was two found alive which had been there all this time, and kept themselves alive by eating the wool of their dead companions. When they were taken out, they shed their own fleeces, but soon got into good case again."
" A man had a couple of young hogs which he gave over for dead, but on the twenty-seventh day after their burial, they made their way out of a snow bank, at the bottom of which they had found a little tansy to feed upon." "Hens were found alive after seven days; turkeys were found alive after five and twenty days, buried in the snow, and at a distance from the ground, and altogether destitute of anything to feed them." "The wild creatures of the woods, [at] the outgoing of the evening, made their descent as well as they could in this time of scarcity for them, towards the sea-side. A vast multitude of deer, for the same cause, taking the same course, and the deep snow spoiling them of their only defense, which is to run, they became such a prey to these devourers that it is thought not one in twenty escaped." "It is incredible how much damage is done to the orchards, for the snow freezing to a crust as high as the bows of the trees, anon split them to pieces. The cattle, also, walking on the crusted snow a dozen feet from the ground, so fed upon the trees as very much to damnify them." "Cottages were totally covered with the snow, and not the very tops of their chimneys to be seen." These "odd accidents," he says, "would afford a story. But there not being any relation to Philosophy in them, I forbear them." He little thought that his simple testimony to such facts as the above would be worth all the philosophy he might dream of.
Feb. 3, 1857. To Fitchburg to lecture. Though the snow was not deep, I noticed that an unbroken snow crust stretched around Fitchburg; and its several thousand inhabitants had been confined so long to the narrow streets, some of them a track only six feet wide. Hardly one individual had anywhere departed from this narrow walk, and struck out into the surrounding fields and hills. If I had had my cowhide boots, I should not have confined myself to those narrow limits, but have climbed some of the hills.
It is surprising to go into a N. E. town in midwinter and find its five thousand inhabitants all living thus on the limits, confined at most to their narrow moose-yard in the snow. Scarcely here and there has a citizen stepped aside one foot to let a sled pass. And about as circumscribed is their summer life, going out from house to shop, and back to house again. If, Indian-like, one examined the dew or beaded grass, he would be surprised to discover how little trodden or frequented the surrounding fields were.... It is as if some vigilance committee had , given notice that if any should transgress these narrow limits, he should be outlawed and his blood should be upon his own head.
Feb. 3, 1858.... I do not see this year, and I do not know that I ever have seen, any unseasonable swelling of the buds of indigenous plants in mild winters.
Feb. 3, 1859. Five minutes before 3 P. M. father died.... I have touched a body which was flexible and warm, yet tenantless warmed by what fire? When the spirit that animated some matter has left it, who else, what else, can animate it?
How enduring are our bodies after all! The forms of our brothers and sisters, our parents and children and wives, lie still in the hills and fields round about us, not to mention those of our remoter ancestors, and the matter which composed the body of our first human father still exists under another name.
When in sickness the body is emaciated, and the expression of the face in various ways is changed, you perceive unexpected resemblances to other members of the same family, as if within the same family there was a greater general similarity in the framework of the face than in its filling up and clothing....
Some have spoken slightingly of the Indians, as a race possessing so little skill and wit, so low in the scale of humanity, and so brutish that they hardly deserved to be remembered, using only the terms, miserable, wretched, pitiful, and the like. In writing their histories of this country, they have so hastily disposed of this refuse of humanity (as they might have called it), which littered and defiled the shore and the interior. But even the indigenous animals are inexhaustibly interesting to us. How much more then the indigenous men of America! If wild men, so much more like ourselves than they are unlike, have inhabited these shores before us, we wish to know particularly what manner of men they were, how they lived here, their relation to nature, their arts and their customs, their fancies and superstitions. They paddled over these waters, they wandered in these woods, and they had their fancies and beliefs connected with the sea and the forest, which concern us quite as much as the fables of Oriental nations do. It frequently happens that the historian, though he professes more humanity than the trapper, the mountain man, or gold digger, who shoots one as a wild beast, in reality exhibits and practices a similar inhumanity to his, wielding a pen instead of a rifle. One tells you with more contempt than pity that the Indian has no religion, holding up both hands, and this to all the shallow-brained and bigoted seems to mean something important. But it is a distinction without a difference. Pray bow much more religion has the historian? If knows so much more about God than another, if be has made some discovery of truth in this direction, I would thank him to publish it in "Silliman's Journal," with as few flourishes as possible. It is the spirit of humanity, that which animates both so-called savages and civilized nations, working through a man, and not the man expressing himself, that interests us most. The thought of a so-called savage tribe is generally far more just than that of a single civilized man.
I perceive that we partially die ourselves, through sympathy, at the death of each of our friends or near relatives. Each such experience is an assault on our vital fume. It becomes a source of wonder that they who have lost many friends still live. After long watching around the sick-bed of a friend, we too partially give up the ghost with him, and are the less to be identified with this state of things.
The writer must, to some extent, inspire himself. Most of the sentences may at first be dead in his essay, but when all are arranged, some life and color will be reflected on them from the mature and successful lines. They will appear to pulsate with past life, and he will be enabled to eke out their slumbering sense, and make them worthy of their neighborhood. In his first essay on a given theme, he produces scarcely more than a frame and ground-work for his sentiment and poetry. Each clear thought that he attains to, draws in its train many kindred thoughts or perceptions. The writer has much to do even to create a theme for himself. Most that is first written on any subject is a mere groping after it, mere rubble-stone and foundation. It is only when many observations of different periods have been brought together that he begins to grasp his subject, and can make one pertinent and just observation.
Feb. 3, 1860.... When I read some of the rules for speaking and writing the English language correctly, as that a sentence must never end with a particle, and perceive how implicitly even the learned obey it, I think
Any fool can make a rule, And every fool will mind it.
Feb. 4, 1841.... Music can make the most nervous chord vibrate healthily....
Wait till you can be genuinely polite, though it be till doomsday, and not lose your chance everlastingly by a cowardly yielding to young etiquette....
Not only by his cunning hand and brain, but when he speaks, too, does man assert his superiority. He conquers the spaces with his voice as well as the lion. The voice of a strong man modulated to the cadence of some tune is more imposing than any natural sound. The keeper's is the most commanding voice in the menagerie, and is heard over all its din. A strong, musical voice imposes a new order and harmony upon nature. From it as a centre, a law is promulgated to the universe. What it lacks in volume and loudness may always be made up in musical expression and distinctness. The brute growls to secure obedience, he threatens; the man speaks as if obedience were already secured.
Feb. 4, 1852. A mild, thawy day. The needles of the pine are the touchstone for the air. Any change in that element is revealed to the practiced eye by their livelier green or increased motion. They are the tell-tales. Now they are (the white pine) a cadaverous, misty blue, anon a lively... light plays on them, and they seem to erect themselves unusually, while the pitch pines are a brighter yellowish green than usual The sun loves to nestle in the boughs of the pine and pass rays through them. The scent of bruised pine leaves where a sled has passed is a little exciting to me now.
I saw this afternoon such lively, blood-red colors on a white pine stump recently cut, that at first I thought the chopper had cut himself. The heart of the tree was partly decayed, and here and there the sounder parts were of this vermilion (?) color alternating with the ordinary white of the wood where it was apparently in the earlier stages of decay. The color was livelier for being wet with the melting snow.
Feb. 4, 1854.... We have not much that is poetic in the accompaniments of the farmer's life. Varro speaks of the swineherd as accustoming the swine or boars to come at the sound of a horn when he fed them with acorns. I remember that my grandmother used to call her cow home at evening from a near pasture to be milked by thumping on the mortar which held her salt. The tinkling cow-bell cannot be spared. Even what most attracts us in the farmer's life is not its profitableness. We love to go after the cow not for the sake of her milk or her beef, or the money they yield, but perchance to hear the tinkling of the cow - bell.... We would keep hens not for eggs, but to hear the cocks crow and the hens cackle.
As for the locality of bee-hives, Varro says they must be placed near the villa, "potissimum ubi non resonent imagines, hie enim Bonus harum fugal causa existimatur esse," especially where there are no echoes, "for this sound is thought to be the cause of their flight."
Feb. 4, 1855.... Saw this P. a very distinct otter track by the Rock, at the junction of the two rivers. The separate foot tracks were quite round, more than two inches in diameter, showing the five toes distinctly in the snow, which was about half an inch deep. In one place where it had crossed last night to Merrick's pasture, its trail about six inches wide and of furrows in the snow was on one side of its foot tracks, and there were about nine inches between its fore and hind feet. Close by the great aspen I saw where it had entered or come out of the water under a shelf of ice left adhering to a maple. There it apparently played or slid on the level ice, making a broad trail, as if a shovel had been shoved along, just eight inches wide, without a foot track in it for four feet or more. And again the trail was only two inches wide and between ale foot tracks, which were side by side and twenty-two inches apart.... About the edge of the hole, where the snow was all rubbed off, was something white which looked and smelt exactly like bits of the skin of pouts or eels. Minott tells of one shot once while eating an eel. V saw one this winter in this town eating fish by a brook....
I sometimes hear a prominent, but dull-witted worthy man say, or hear that he has said rarely, that if it were not for his firm belief in "an overruling power," or "a perfect Being," etc. But such poverty-stricken expressions only convince me of his habitual doubt, and that he is surprised into a transient belief. Such a man's expression of faith, moving solemnly in the traditional furrow, and casting out all freethinking and living souls with the rusty mouldboard of his compassion or contempt, thinking that he has Moses and all the prophets in his wake, discourages and saddens me as an expression of his narrow and barren want of faith. I see that the infidels and skeptics have formed themselves into churches, and weekly gather together at the ringing of a bell. Sometimes when in conversation or a lecture, I have been grasping at, or even standing and reclining upon the serene and everlasting truths that underlie and support our vacillating life, I have seen my auditors standing on their terra firma, a quaking earth, crowded together on their Lisbon Quay, and compassionately or timidly watching my motions as if they were the antics of a rope-dancer or mountebank intending to walk on air.
Feb. 4,1858. P. To C. Miles swamp. Discover the ledum latifolium quite abundant on a space about six rods in diameter just E. of the small pond-hole, growing with the andromeda calyculata, polifolia, kalmia glauca, etc.... The ledum bears a general resemblance to the water andromeda, with its dark-reddish, purplish, or rather mulberry leaves, reflexed; but nearer, it is distinguished by its coarseness, the perfect tent form of its upper leaves, and the large, conspicuous, terminal, roundish (strictly oval) red buds, nearly as, big as the swamp pink's, but rounded. The woolly stern for a couple of inches beneath the bud is frequently bare, and conspicuously club-shaped. The rust on the under sides of the leaves is of a lighter color than that of Maine. The seed vessels, which open at the base first, still hold on. The plant might be easily confounded with the water andromeda by a careless observer....
I brought some home, and had a cup of tea made of it, which, in spite of a slight piny or turpentine flavor, seemed unexpectedly good.... As usual with the finding of new plants, I had a presentiment that I should find the ledum in Concord. It is a remarkable fact that in the case of the most interesting plants which I have discovered in this vicinity, I have anticipated finding them perhaps a year before the discovery.
Feb. 5, 1841.... Music is the crystallization of sound. There is something in the effect of a harmonious voice upon the disposition of its neighborhood analogous to the law of crystals. It centralizes itself, and sounds like the published law of things. If the law of the universe were to be audibly promulgated, no mortal lawgiver would suspect it, for it would be a finer melody than his ears ever attended to. It would be sphere music....
In all emergencies there is always one step which you may take on firm ground, where gravity will assure your footing. So you hold a draft on Fate payable at sight.
Feb. 5, 1852.... Men do believe in symbols yet and can understand some. When Sir Francis Head left his government in Upper Canada, and the usual farewell had been said, as the vessel moved off, he, standing on the deck, pointed, for all reply, to the British flag floating over his head, and a shriek rather than a cheer went up from the crowd on the piers who had observed his gesture....
Time never passes so rapidly and unaccount- ably as when I am engaged in recording my thoughts. The world may perchance reach its end for us in a profounder thought, and time itself run down.
Feb. 5, 1853.... The frost is out of the ground in many places. A stellaria media [common chickweed] in blossom in the garden, as was the case, of course, last month.
Feb. 5, 1854.... Shall we not have sympathy with the muskrat, which gnaws its third leg off, not as pitying its suffering, but, through our kindred mortality, appreciating its majestic pains and its heroic virtue? Are we not made its brothers by fate? For whom are psalms sung and mass said, if not for such worthies as these? When I hear the church organ peal, or feel the trembling tones of the bass-viol, I see in imagination the muskrat gnawing off his leg. I offer up a note that bis affliction may be sanctified to each and all of us.... When I think of the tragedies which are constantly permitted in the course of all animal life, they make the plaintive strain of the universal harp which elevates us above the trivial.... Even as the worthies of mankind are said to recommend human life by having lived it, so I could not spare the example of the muskrat.
Feb. 5, 1859. When we have experienced many disappointments, such as the loss of friends, the notes of birds cease to affect us as they did.
Feb. 6, 1841. One may discover a new side to his most intimate friend when for the first time he hears him speak in public. He will be strange to him as he is more familiar to the audience. The longest intimacy could not foretell how he would behave then. When I observe my friend's conduct toward others, then chiefly I learn the traits in his character, and in each case I am unprepared for the issue.... How little do we know each other. Who can tell how his friend would behave on any occasion....
What I am must make yon forget what I wear. The fashionable world is content to be eclipsed by its dress, and never will bear the contrast....
Lu ral lu ral lu may be more impressively sung than very respectable wisdom talked. It is well timed, as wisdom is not always.
Feb. 6, 1852.... The artificial system has been very properly called the dictionary, and the natural method, the grammar of the science of botany, by botanists themselves. But are we to have nothing but grammars and dictionaries of this literature? Are there no works written in the language of flowers? I asked a learned and accurate naturalist, who is at the same time the courteous guardian of a public library, to direct me to those works which contained the more... popular account or biography of particular flowers from which the botanies I had met with appeared to draw sparingly, for I trusted that each flower had had many lovers and faithful describers in past times. But he informed me that I had read all, that no one was acquainted with them, they were only catalogued like his books....
Who will not confess that the necessity to get money has helped to ripen some of his schemes?
Feb. 6, 1853. Observed some buds on a young apple-tree partially unfolded at the extremity and apparently swollen. Probably blossom buds.
Feb. 6, 1855. The coldest morning this winter. Our thermometer stands at 14° at 9 A. M. Others, we hear, at 6 A. M. stood at 18°. There are no loiterers in the street, and the wheels of wagons squeak as they have not for a long time, actually shriek. Frostwork keeps its place on the window within three feet of the stove all day in my chamber. At 4 P. the thermometer is at 10°. At six it is at 14°. I was walking at five, and found it stinging cold.... When I look out at the chimneys, I see that the cold and hungry air snaps up the smoke at once. The smoke is clear and light colored, and does not get far into the air before it is dissipated(?), condensed. The setting sun no sooner leaves our west windows than a solid, but beautiful crystallization coats them, except, it may be, a triangularish bare spot at one corner which, perhaps, the sun has warmed and dried.... A solid, sparkling field in the midst of each pane, with broad, flowing sheaves surrounding it. It has been a very mild as well as open winter up to this. At 9 o'clock P. m., thermometer at 16°. They say it did not rise above --6° to-day.
Feb. 7, 1853. The coldest night for a long, long time. Sheets froze stiff about the face.... People dreaded to go to bed. The ground cracked in the night as if a powder-mill had blown up, and the timbers of the house also. My pail of water was frozen in the morning so that I could not break it.... Iron was like fire in the hands. [Mercury 7] at about 7.30 A. m. gone into the bulb of the thermometer 19° at least.... Bread, meat, milk, cheese, etc., all frozen.... The inside of your cellar door all covered and sparkling with frost like Golconda. The latches are white with frost, and every nail-head in entries, etc., has a white head.... Neighbor Smith's thermometer stood at 26° early this morning. But the day is at length more moderate than yesterday.... This will be remembered as the cold Tuesday. The old folks still refer to the cold Friday, when they sat before great fires of wood four feet long, with a fence of blankets behind them, and water froze on the mantel-piece.